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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Bill establishing online national sex offender database on way to White House
Joe Shaulis at 3:03 PM ET

[JURIST] A bill that would set up a nationwide online database of sex offenders' homes and workplaces is awaiting President Bush's approval following passage Tuesday by the US House. The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 [HR 4472 summary; PDF text], named after a Florida boy [Wikipedia backgrounder] who was abducted from a shopping mall and killed in 1981, was approved by a voice vote in both houses of Congress. Sex offenders who fail to register with the database could be charged with a felony punishable by 10 years in prison. Supporters said the database will help families and law enforcement officials protect children. The FBI already operates a more limited National Sex Offenders Registry [FBI backgrounder; query interface], and all 50 states and the District of Columbia have registration systems [FBI list] as well.

Among its other provisions, the bill imposes a mandatory prison sentence of at least 25 years for kidnapping or maiming a child and a sentence of at least 30 years for having sex with a child 12 or younger and for sexually assaulting a child between 13 and 17. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sent a letter [text] to House members in March urging them to vote against an earlier version of the bill, which the ACLU said would "create ten new federal death penalties and almost 30 new discriminatory mandatory minimums that infringe upon protected First Amendment speech, effectively eliminate federal and state prisoners' ability to challenge wrongful convictions in federal court, make it more difficult to monitor sex offenders and create more serious juvenile offenders by incarcerating children in adult prisons." AP has more.

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