The Pentagon’s top official in charge of preventing and responding to sexual assault in the armed forces promised Thursday to “take a hard look” at the potential role for his office in deterring future sexual assaults by military offenders once they return to civilian life.
Maj. General Jeffrey Snow, head of the Defense Department’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, said he was “not well-versed” about the failure of convicted military assailants to get on public sex offender registries after they’re released from the service. The registries are designed to alert the public of an offender’s history and help prevent repeat crimes.
His comments came during a press briefing on new efforts to address sexual assault within the armed services.
Scripps News reported last month that hundreds of military sex offenders do not appear on public registries. Of 1,312 cases reviewed over nine months, at least 242 appeared on no public U.S. sex offender registries, Scripps found.
The federal Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act requires civilian offenders place their names and details of their crimes on a registry before leaving prison. They must re-register whenever they move to a new state. The public can search not only state registries, but also a Department of Justice website that links all sex offender registries nationally.
The military has a different system. Prisoners must state where they intend to move once they’re released. Defense officials then are to inform civilian authorities, but it is up to sex offenders to move to register themselves after leaving the military.
In August, the DOD inspector general reported that the military’s current system “enables offenders to evade registration,” and recommended it be changed to require that offenders are registered before release. During one quarter last year, 20 percent of the 197 offenders studied failed to self-register, according an inspector general review.
Defense officials say they are developing a policy to ensure that sex offenders comply with self-registration.
In a step forward early last year, the DOD required that the National Sex Offender Targeting Center be notified before the release of any military sex offender. The center, part of the U.S. Marshals Service, tracks offenders who fail to register.