Summary of Testimony Before the House Judiciary Committee
Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security
February 15, 2011
- The status of Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) implementation.
- The SMART Office's efforts to help states, tribes, and territories with implementation.
- Some of the remaining barriers SORNA jurisdictions face.
On the Status of SORNA Implementation
- The states of Ohio, Florida, Delaware, and South Dakota; the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation; the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation; and the U.S. territory of Guam have substantially implemented SORNA.
- To date, 47 states, the District of Columbia, 5 territories, and 41 tribes have submitted materials to the SMART Office for review and technical assistance.
- Many jurisdictions that have not fully implemented SORNA have made great strides. For example, Wisconsin improved its website capabilities and is addressing areas where laws and regulations are not SORNA compliant. Iowa strengthened information-sharing capabilities with agencies both within and outside of the state. Maryland, Missouri, and Wyoming implemented all but one or two key provisions of SORNA. Maine developed a relationship with local U.S. Marshals to share information and track down noncompliant offenders.
On Efforts To Help With Implementation
- Dedicated more than $39 million in grants, training, and other resources to the field. In fact, 43 states, 3 U.S. territories, and 58 Indian tribes have received funding under our Support for Adam Walsh Act Implementation Grant Program.
- Issued guidelines and developed supplemental guidelines and implementation documents to clarify SORNA's requirements and provide jurisdictions with greater flexibility in how they meet them.
- Held annual national workshops on SORNA implementation to address implementation costs, available resources, and the implications of the upcoming deadline.
- Provided numerous resources to help address information-sharing and technology gaps:
- The Tribe and Territory Sex Offender Registry System (TTSORS), available free of charge to all SORNA tribes and territories, serves as both the administrative registry system and the public sex offender website system that tribes and territories need to comply with SORNA. Currently, 229 people representing 125 tribes have attended a TTSORS training and 110 tribes and territories are using or testing TTSORS.
- The Sex Offender Registry Tool (SORT), available free of charge to states, serves as an administrative registry system; offers local registration agencies their own public sex offender website system, which they need to meet SORNA requirements; and provides electronic notifications to other law enforcement agencies and the public. Currently, 10 states have expressed interest in using SORT and 3 have begun projects to customize SORT for their jurisdictions.
- The SORNA Exchange Portal helps states, territories, and tribes share information about sex offenders who are relocating or are required to register in more than one jurisdiction. The portal also allows states, territories, and tribes to share ideas and crucial information such as contacts, announcements, and historical files. Currently, the portal's 382 users represent 50 states, 2 U.S. territories, the District of Columbia, 37 Indian tribes, the U.S. Marshals Service, and other federal law enforcement agencies.
- The Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW) is the public's link to information regarding registered sex offenders throughout the country. All 50 states, the District of Columbia, 3 U.S. territories, and 22 tribal nations have sex offender public websites linked to NSOPW.
On Some Barriers to Implementation
- Specific barriers include opposition to specific SORNA requirements, such as juvenile registration, retroactivity, conviction-based tiering, and public notification. General barriers include government turnover, public opposition, resistance to change, and legislative fatigue. Implementation costs remain a primary reason for some states' failure to pass required legislation. (See a compilation of information reported by each state, territory, and the District of Columbia.)
- Most of the SORNA tribes face challenges related to establishing sex offender registration and notification systems for the first time and have difficulty meeting information-sharing standards.
- Most states have to change their existing laws to meet SORNA's requirements. Many have introduced bills in their legislatures that would move them toward substantial implementation of SORNA. It is difficult to predict, from state to state, which ones will be successful in enacting legislation and which ones will not.
In addition, the testimony outlines the July 27 implementation deadline and the penalties faced by jurisdictions that do not meet it.