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SORNA: Implementation in Indian Country

The ability of Native American communities to know if convicted sex offenders are living on the reservation is critical. Indian communities endure violent crime, particularly sexual assault, at a rate far greater than any other demographic group in the United States. According to congressional findings, one out of every three Native American (including Alaska Native) women is raped in her lifetime. Moreover, Native American women experience 7 sexual assaults per 1,000, compared with 4 per 1,000 among Blacks, 3 per 1,000 among Caucasians, 2 per 1,000 among Hispanics, and 1 per 1,000 among Asian-American women (section 901 of the Violence Against Women Act of 2005). Sex offender registration and notification in Indian Country, as provided for in the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 (AWA), are effective tools in the prevention of sexual assault.

Under AWA, Title 1, Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), certain federally recognized Indian tribes are now included within the definition of registration “jurisdiction.” SORNA section 127 generally affords non-Public Law 280 Indian tribes (those in which the federal government prosecutes major felonies including sex offenses) a choice between functioning as registration jurisdictions and delegating those functions to the states in which they are located. According to SORNA, this decision had to be made by “tribal resolution or other enactment” on or before July 27, 2007.

Currently, 562 Indian tribes are federally recognized in the United States. Of these, 212 tribes were eligible under SORNA to make a registry election, and 197 of them timely filed a resolution or other enactment stating their intention to create their own sex offender registry. For the remaining 365 tribes, the states in which they are located are responsible for ensuring that applicable tribal convictions are on the state public registry and that covered sex offenders living in Indian Country are appropriately registered.

If a tribe elected to function as a registration jurisdiction, it has the same sex offender registration and notification functions and responsibilities as a state. SORNA and the final National Guidelines for Sex Offender Registration and Notification provide that tribes may enter into cooperative agreements with states, a consortium of tribes, or other local units of government for pooling or sharing these functions and responsibilities. Tribes also can rescind a previous election to function as a registration jurisdiction and, to date, one has done so. If a rescission occurs, the registration function is delegated to the states.

Tribes, just like all other registration jurisdictions, have until July 27, 2009, to implement SORNA. Up to two 1-year extensions are provided for in the law. If a tribe delegated the responsibility to the state(s), then the state is responsible for registration and notification concerning sex offenders in the tribe’s territory. In the case of a delegation to the state, federal law grants the state a right of access to the tribe’s jurisdiction to implement the law.

The President and the Attorney General are committed to improving law enforcement and criminal justice in Indian Country and to ensuring that federally recognized Indian tribes are full partners in this effort. To further these efforts, the SMART Office is committed to working to protect our communities from sexual predators no matter where they reside, work, attend school, or travel.
Contents
  • SORNA: Implementation in Indian Country
    Native Americans endure sexual assault at a rate far greater than any other demographic group . . . arrow More

  • Funding for SORNA Implementation
    The Support for Adam Walsh Act Implementation grant program helps jurisdictions improve information sharing; . . . arrow More

  • 2008 National Symposium on Sex Offender Management and Accountability
    The SMART Office’s annual symposium is being held in Baltimore, Maryland from July 30 to August 1, 2008 . . . arrow More

  • 2008 National Tribal Symposium: SORNA Training for Indian Country
    The 2008 National Tribal Symposium on Sex Offender Management and Accountability brought tribal leaders and tribal criminal justice and social service representatives together . . . arrow More
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