Deadline set for tribes to create offender registries 5-14-07

TULSA, Okla. (AP) - Indian tribes are scrambling to meet a July deadline for a new federal law that requires them to define sex offenders within their tribal jurisdiction.

The Adam Walsh Act requires tribes to establish plans for their own sex-offender registries through tribal statute within their reservation areas.

If they fail to meet the July 27 deadline, the tribes forfeit the offender registration over to the state, the statute reads.

State officials said the Adam Walsh Act will further ensure that offenders are registered in the state of Oklahoma, which requires dual registry with a state and local law enforcement entity.

“If an offender lives on tribal land, then they will be required to take their address verification to that tribe, because the state has no jurisdiction on tribal land,” said Lawana Hamrick, Oklahoma Department of Corrections sex offender registry coordinator.

Local Indian law specialists said the statute addresses a complex problem and that federal lawmakers did not consult with tribes before passing it. The lack of foresight creates frustration and misunderstanding, one lawyer said.

“It is a stealth law,” said Tulsa attorney Michael McBride. “If tribal governments do nothing, that particular tribal government will automatically lose some criminal jurisdiction.”

Oklahoma has an estimated 5,347 registered sex offenders, 2007 Department of Corrections figures show.