Georgia Loses Federal Dollars Over Sex Offender Registry

Georgia Loses Federal Dollars Over Sex Offender Registry

Georgia has lost out on some of the federal funding it counts on to maintain the state’s sex offender registry, The Department of Justice has found the state’s registry woefully deficient each year since 2011 for failing to gather a variety of information on convicted sex offenders.

For years, Georgia hasn’t been meeting federal requirements for registering and monitoring sex offenders. States have had more than 10 years to comply with a federal law on how to do this, so this year, the U.S. Department of Justice denied Georgia’s application for an annual grant that’s been around $250,000 in past years.

Georgia didn’t appeal that decision.

“We’re going to continue to work with them, but we’re not going to undo the reforms that we put in place in terms of criminal justice reforms,” said Governor Nathan Deal in response to a letter from the DOJ.

One example of conflict between federal law and state practice? Georgia’s public registry website, seemingly operated by tobacco-chewing woodsmen, doesn’t include useful information such as sex offenders’ current place of employment.

But a DOJ spokesperson told WABE they’ve found ways to work with another state on just this issue. The department says it’s “looking forward to continuing to work with Georgia on issues that will move it toward substantial implementation” of federal sex offender registry law.

Federal law requires that each offender be classified as either Level 1, Level 2 or Level 3, which is done in Georgia by a specially appointed Sex Offender Registration Review Board. The classification system helps local law enforcement focus on monitoring those sex offenders who pose the greatest danger.

Of all the offenders on the registry, about 4,000 still need to have a risk level assigned. They are either living in the community or are a year from being released from prison. Loss of the grant money could mean that the state is unable to whittle away that backlog.

Tracy Alvord, executive director of the Sex Offender Registration Review Board, said the review board will lose $250,000 as its share of the grant. That loss almost equals the amount her agency has received to help finish the work of assigning risk levels to sex offenders.

“We’ve been maintaining,” Alvord said, adding that the $234,845 the review board began tapping on April 1 allowed her to hire seven temporary workers, with an eighth expected soon. Those workers augment the work already being done by her permanent staff, which processes the records of about 150 sex offenders a month.

Alvord estimated that of the 4,000 waiting for a risk assessment, about 320 will be found to be sexually dangerous predators.

WABE / MYAJC

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