American Samoa nears establishment of sex offender registry
American Samoa close to introducing sex offender registry law.
American Samoa is beefing up its legislation to comply with the United States Sexual Offender Registry and Notification Act.
Both the House and the Senate have unanimously accepted the of the bill.
It establishes a broader registry which the Attorney General's office shall operate and maintain.
Deputy Attorney General Mitzie Jessop told Koro Vaka'uta about the SORNA bill.
MITZIE JESSOP: It's a United States programme in order to keep track of convicted sex offenders within the United States.
KORO VAKA'UTA: Within the territory, where is American Samoa at with it?
MJ: We currently have a sex offenders registry law however the law that we currently have needed to be amended and so the Governor's office wrote up a new bill and have submitted it to our Legislature for passage. This new sex offender registry law just has more teeth in it as far as enforcing the registration of convicted sex offenders, not only locally here on island but for those that travel here to American Samoa.
KV: Does it allow for greater access to the registration or is it primarily for authority use?
MJ: Well part of the new bill that we drafted is going to allow for a website that we will post information to the website on where sex offenders are currently residing. Of course the bottom line for this whole bill is just to protect those whom sex offenders generally prey on. Generally that is children, young women, the elderly, anyone with developmental disability, you know anyone in general. It's just to protect the public once convicted sex offenders are released from jail and are now back in the community.
KV: These amendments, are they a long time coming? You mentioned you already had existing legislation."
MJ: Yes it's been a while. We had tried to introduce a similar bill in the past. It did not get introduced within our legislature because we only have 45 days per session and we only have two sessions per year. So it's been a little while trying to get this bill introduced. This current bill that's now going through our legislature was introduced in August of last year which is finally now coming to the forefront."
KV: Politically it seems that there is the willpower or has been for this to get through.
MJ: Yes, that's exactly correct. You know, it's Samoa and any other Pacific Islander nation our priority is going to be our children and those without a voice and so definitely it's never been an issue of the importance of the bill or not paying attention, it's just been a shortage of time and other bills that have come through our legislature. I'm just really grateful that it finally got pushed through and at least got to the floor. This new bill just gives the Attorney-General's office more tools for our tool-belt in order to enforce the law and keep track of these sex offenders. We have a law currently but it just lacked a lot of the enforcement tools that we needed.
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