SORNA Implementation in Indian Country
The SMART Office has received an impressive response from Indian Country regarding implementation of the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), 42 U.S.C. § 16925(a) (Title I of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006). To date, 112 tribal jurisdictions have submitted SORNA implementation packages. Twenty-seven tribal jurisdictions have been found to have substantially implemented SORNA, 86 additional packages are in various stages of review, and 59 tribal jurisdictions have requested an additional specified reasonable amount of time to implement changes to codes, policies, and procedures and other implementation activities to meet SORNA's minimum requirements. Eighty-one tribes have public sex offender websites linked to the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW). The SMART Office continues to work with all these tribal jurisdictions to address any outstanding issues.
SMART Office Review Process Explained
The SMART Office team assigned to Indian Country is reviewing packages in the order they are received, with each tribal jurisdiction's review taking anywhere from 1 to 4 months. Each package is reviewed individually based on the tribal jurisdiction's unique needs and complex infrastructure.
When a package review commences, the reviewer alerts the tribal representative that the review process has begun and asks if any new information about the program should be included. The reviewer then checks NSOPW to ensure that the tribe has a live website that is connected to NSOPW (unless the tribe has an agreement with a State or another tribe to participate in their registry and public website). If the website is functional, the reviewer uses the substantial implementation checklist to ensure that the minimum requirements of SORNA are covered. The reviewer considers the unique aspects of the tribe's sex offender registration and notification program and works with the tribal representative to ensure that all legal, procedural, information-sharing, and other SORNA requirements are met. Once the reviewer determines that the standards have been met and that the tribe has a live, functioning sex offender registration and notification system, the package is moved through the remainder of the review process.
Based on the reviews conducted to date, the SMART Office has identified a number of common errors and omissions. The office encourages all tribal jurisdictions to ensure that the listed items below, as well as all the items on the substantial implementation checklist, have been addressed. If not, the SMART Office cannot complete a full review.
- The tribal jurisdiction's public website is operational and is linked to NSOPW. (Many tribal jurisdictions use the Tribe and Territory Sex Offender Registry System as their public website and sex offender management system.)
- The tribal jurisdiction is actively using the SORNA Exchange Portal to exchange information with other jurisdictions.
- There is a system or plan for recapturing sex offenders who are newly required to register with the tribal jurisdiction under the requirements of SORNA.
- It is clear how the tribal jurisdiction is taking and submitting fingerprints (to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's IAFIS—the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System) and palm prints (to the FBI's NGI—Next Generation Identification).
- It is clear how the tribal jurisdiction is taking DNA samples and how the samples are being tested and submitted for entry into CODIS (Combined DNA Index System).
- It is clear how the tribal jurisdiction is submitting all required registration data to the National Crime Information Center's National Sex Offender Registry (NCIC/NSOR) or the jurisdiction provides an explanation of the current process or challenges.
- The tribal sex offender registration code is updated according to the required changes contained in SORNA's supplemental guidelines and other tiering updates indicated in the updated Model Tribal Code.
- There is a system for how to notify all sex offenders who are employees working on tribal land of their obligation to register.
- There is a system for how the court is going to provide notice to offenders pleading and found guilty of registerable sex offenses.
Tribal jurisdictions should not wait for the SMART Office review to be complete before they implement their SORNA programs. In fact, SMART Office reviewers are only able to perform a full final review of the substantial implementation package if the tribal jurisdiction's program is operational. The SMART Office cannot make a finding of substantial implementation if the program, policies, and procedures and/or code are in draft or proposed form.
The SMART Office is only reviewing full implementation packages and is not able to do preliminary reviews; however, if a tribe, nation, or pueblo has a specific, unique issue that needs to be resolved, please contact the office: