U.S. Virgin Islands Sex Offender Legislation Stalls at Drafting Stage

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Legislation which would modify the V.I.’s current sex offender law, bringing it up to date with the rest of the U.S., has stalled at the drafting stage.

“It hasn’t gone anywhere,” said Senator at Large Craig Barshinger, who sponsored the bill. “There was a pulse of interest on the talk radio circuit a few weeks ago, but it’s not something that seems to be on the front burner.”

Public interest in the bill could help push it through the V.I. Senate’s legal counsel, which is overwhelmed with drafting requests, according to the freshman senator.

“Legal counsel has over 1,000 bills being drafted, and they only have six attorneys,” said Barshinger. “We kind of focus on the ones that there is the most public interest in.”

Bill requests which were submitted by senators from as much as a year ago are still waiting to be drafted, according to Barshinger.

“The legal counsel doesn’t really have a system,” he said. “They say it’s first come, first serve, but that’s not true because we have bills that we put in from over a year ago. The legal counsel seems to work on whatever they want to work on.”

“They give us, at best, one bill or amendment per month,” Barshinger added.

Independent Lawyer Could Draft Legislation
An independent lawyer who is willing to draft the legislation could help move the bill along, according to Barshinger.

“If a lawyer who was interested in this subject would draft a bill for us, then legal counsel only has to review it,” said the Senator at Large. “My drafting request asks for sex offender registration that incorporates the current best practices for public safety and awareness as done in other jurisdictions similar to ours. This is extremely open for the legal counsel, and it lets them do what they like to do, which is find a model legislation and pass it.”

The senate does respond to public interest, according to Barshinger.

“We’re very responsive to what’s hot for people,” he said. “If people start to get really interested in it, we work with it. It’s just dismal in terms of getting stuff done, and this bill is not the kind of thing that’s going to go anywhere until it’s drafted.”

Currently under V.I. Code, sex offenders’ information is made available only to law enforcement officers. Schools are also notified if a sex offender lives within one mile of the facility.

Law Not Interpreted in Intended Manner The law is not being interpreted the way it was intended, former V.I. Senator Allie-Allison Petrus, who introduced the original Virgin Islands Sexual Offender Registration and Community Protection law in 1997, told St. John Tradewinds earlier this year.

To provide input or show support for Barshinger’s sex offender legislation, contact his office at 693-8061.

The amount of sex offenders’ information made available to the public under the amendment will depend on public input, according to Barshinger.