In March 2011, Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) introduced the Finding Fugitive Sex Offenders Act in the Senate. The Act was designed to grant the U.S. Marshals administrative subpoena power so that they could better investigate sex offenders who had not registered as required by law. The FBI already had similar authority for health care and child crime cases; the Secret Service already had similar authority for cases involving threats to officials. The bill was passed through the Judiciary Committee and eventually passed the full Senate as part of a broader anti-crime bill, but was never merged into a conference report with the House.
In January, the bill was reintroduced and passed through the Judiciary Committee. And now, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has put a hold on it, blocking it from full Senate consideration.
There’s no good excuse for such a hold. Administrative subpoena power is necessary because it is faster moving than traditional subpoena power; it is frequently used in emergency situations. And there is no greater emergency than tracking down sex offenders, who have the highest recidivism rate of any criminal subgroup.
There are over 100,000 unregistered sex offenders throughout the country; clearly, this has led to harm to women, as well as children and other targets. And everybody knows it. Back in 2006, when considering the predecessor law to the Finding Fugitive Sex Offenders Act, Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) pointed to the tragedy of Dylan and Shasta Groene, who were abducted by Joseph Duncan, an unregistered sex offender; he killed Dylan, as well as the kids’ mother, stepfather, and teenage brother. “Joseph Duncan was essentially lost by three states,” Cantwell explained. “He moved from State to State to avoid capture. No one knew where he was nor even how to look for him.”
If we’re going to talk about a war on women, Leahy’s hold should be at the top of the list, alongside the Obama Administration’s decision to cut funding for Texas’ reproductive health services and President Obama’s acceptance of $1 million from Bill Maher for his campaign warchest.