V.I. on Track To Meet July Deadline To Comply With Federal Sex Offender Law

The Virgin Islands task force responsible for bringing the territory into compliance with the Sexual Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) by July of this year is well on its way to accomplishing its goal.

The V.I. Department of Justice is also just a month away from revealing its new Web site, which will feature an online registry of local sex offenders.

The SORNA task force, which met for the fifth time last month, must bring the territory into “substantial compliance” with federal law, according to the act, or face a 10 to 15 percent loss of Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program funds.

The group is reviewing proposed legislation in order to rewrite Virgin Islands law, and is following a Model Tribal Sex Offender Registration Code provided by the Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering and Tracking for use by Native American tribes in complying with federal law.

Amendments which have been proposed by the task force thus far largely deal with keeping registrations current; addressing offenders who move to other jurisdictions, including foreign countries; and notifying offenders that they are required to register where they reside, work and go to school.

On the agenda for the task force’s next meeting are reviewing penalties for failing to register, and evaluating proposed definitions of terms to be included in the new laws governing sex offenders in the territory.

The task force has yet to tackle more complicated aspects of sex offender law, including how to treat juveniles and whether to provide treatment for offenders, explained V.I. DOJ spokesperson Sara Lezama.

“Treatment is a consideration and is also the reason why the task force is comprised of representatives from the Department of Health, Department of Human Services and the Sexual Registry Board,” said Lezama. “These representatives are expected to weigh in heavily when it comes to this issue.”

Another difficult issue faced by the task force is the restriction of where sex offenders can live. Many states do not allow offenders to live within a certain distance from schools and day care facilities; however, the small size of the islands could prohibit such a clause from being included in the new Virgin Islands law.

“As far as residence restrictions in and around schools, the task force is in discussion regarding this issue,” said Lezama. “The small size of the territory may make implementing such a restriction quite difficult.”

Failure to comply with SORNA by July would result in a 10 to 15 percent loss of Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program funds, and although the cost to come into compliance is greater than the amount of funding that would be lost, the Virgin Islands is committed to bringing its sex offender laws up to date.

“The Virgin Islands, and the attorney general specifically, are committed to coming into compliance with this deadline,” said Lezama. “The Department of Justice and the task force are excited by the progress that has been made thus far, and the task force looks forward to continuing its work.”

The task force is comprised of representatives from the Office of the Governor, V.I. Police Department, V.I. Superior Court, Office of Probation and Parole, V.I. DOJ, V.I. Department of Health, V.I. Bureau of Corrections, V.I. Department of Human Services, Sexual Offender Registry Board members and the U.S. Department of Justice.

St. John residents should note that one offender on the DOJ’s current registry resides near Cruz Bay The offender, Vere Daley, is described as an African American male, 5’7” tall and 135 pounds.

Daley, who was born in 1975, has tattoos on his upper left and right arms, and was convicted of rape in the second degree in 2005. His last reported address was in Contant, and he is employed by Max Griffith, according to the online registry.