February 12, 2015
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-San Francisco/San Mateo Counties) introduced the Military Track, Register and Alert Communities Act of 2015 (Military TRAC Act), which would close a frightening loophole in the criminal justice system by bringing the military sex offender registration system in line with civilian practices. Speier was joined by original cosponsors Congressman Mike Coffman (R-Littleton) and Congressman Pat Meehan (D-Cheltenham).
The loophole allows sex offenders convicted in military courts to return to civilian life and travel undetected, without appearing on any sex offender registries. Unlike most civilian jurisdictions, where offenders must register before being released from prison, military offenders are expected to register themselves after their release. A recent investigation by the Scripps news agency found that of 1,321 cases, nearly 250 offenders convicted of crimes such as rape and child molestation did not appear on a single public registry. Because the Scripps data comes only from cases that were appealed, the real number of undetected offenders is likely far higher.
“The public deserves to know when a criminal convicted of forcing his 12-year-old babysitter to walk on his nude body in high heels lives nearby,” said Speier. “They shouldn’t have to wait for a convicted rapist to re-offend before they get the information they need to keep their children safe. This is a frightening loophole and it must be closed.”
The Department of Defense (DoD) is currently required to notify the offender’s state of residence of the offender’s release. But in several cases, the DoD has failed to do so, and in others the offender simply moves somewhere else or decides not to register.
The Military TRAC Act would establish a DoD sex offender registry for military personnel convicted of rape, sexual assault, or other sex-based offenses. It would also require military sex offenders to register before their release from military prisons; ensure that information on military sexual offenders is available to civilian law enforcement agencies; and mandate the creation of a website that makes the military sex offender registry available to the public.
“Cracking down on sexual assault in the military extends beyond just punishing those who committed the heinous crimes,” said Rep. Mike Coffman, a Marine Corps combat veteran. “It must also protect both civilians and soldiers after the assailants leave their respective service. Sexual assault is a serious scourge and we must do all we can to ensure these predators are monitored similar to the way sex offenders are dealt with by civilian authorities to prevent them from striking again.”
“We applaud Congresswoman Speier for introducing legislation that will make our communities safer and our military stronger,” said Colonel (Ret.) Don Christensen, president of Protect Our Defenders. “Inexplicably, the United States military lacks the authority to require service members who have been convicted of rape or sexual assault to register as sex offenders. Instead, the Pentagon relies on an ‘honor system,’ leaving it up to convicted rapists to register themselves after leaving the military.
“This is a national security issue. Because the military doesn’t track sex offenders within the ranks, American citizens have been assaulted, raped and even killed because these perpetrators are able to operate in our society without notice.
“We also thank Rep. Speier for continuing to stand with victims and giving a voice to the countless survivors who suffer from the epidemic of rape and sexual assault in the military.”