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Recognizing a Decade of Progress at SMART

Wednesday, March 23, 2016
Courtesy Luis C.deBaca, SMART Director

Luis C.deBaca photo

For the past 10 years, the Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking (SMART) has been at the forefront of implementing effective practices to register and manage sex offenders.

This summer, we'll be recognizing the 10th anniversary of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006. This legislation, named after the 6-year-old boy whose senseless murder led to increased public awareness of the need to prevent sex offenses and provide victims' services, established the SMART Office. In 2006, SMART became the first federal office devoted solely to activities related to sex offender management.

Our upcoming symposium in Kansas City is a time for us to remember Adam and also to reflect on the progress that our office has made in its first 10 years. We've made great strides in preventing sex offenses, meeting victims' needs, and addressing the additional ongoing challenges of monitoring sex offenders.

Here at SMART, our primary task is to guide the implementation of the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), which is Title I of the Adam Walsh Act. Through SORNA, the national standards for sex offender registration and notification were revised, closing the gaps and loopholes that existed under prior law.

Since our inception, we've helped 17 states, 99 tribes, and three territories to substantially implement SORNA's requirements. While not every jurisdiction is SORNA-compliant, many have aspects of the law in place and are on the path to achieving substantial implementation.

Implementing SORNA in tribal jurisdictions is no small feat. Unlike their state counterparts, tribes began working towards implementation with no preexisting infrastructure in place to handle sex offender registration.

We've been able to devise innovative solutions to overcome the unique challenges faced by tribes, such as the Tribe and Territory Sex Offender Registry System (TTSORS) and the Tribal Access Program for National Crime Information (TAP). TTSORS, an administrative registry system and a customizable public website for managing sex offender information, removes the technical difficulties of implementing a SORNA-compliant registry system for tribes. TAP provides tribes with access to national crime information databases, allowing them to more effectively protect their citizens by ensuring the exchange of critical data.

We've been very successful in helping tribes implement SORNA, but, in a broader context, one of our most significant accomplishments over the past 10 years is commissioning the development of the Sex Offender Management Assessment and Planning Initiative (SOMAPI).

This comprehensive resource serves as a roadmap for how we should be thinking about sex offender management and prevention. It provides a thorough assessment of research and practice surrounding both adult and juvenile sex offender management.

As part of the effort to create SOMAPI, our office gathered information and enlisted practitioners to provide details about sex offender management programs and practices that are promising or effective, and to identify the needs of the various disciplines involved in managing this population.

SMART also manages the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website, the only U.S. government site that links public state, territorial, and tribal sex offender registries on one national search site. This site was established in 2005, but was given its current title through the Adam Walsh Act.

We've launched the SORNA Exchange Portal to help agencies share information about sex offenders who are relocating between jurisdictions or are required to register in more than one jurisdiction. Sex offender registration personnel can easily access the online portal, facilitating the exchange of information and ideas between jurisdictions.

In addition to maintaining our own programming, we have provided nearly $35 million in grant funding over the past two years. This funding enables jurisdictions to develop or enhance their sex offender registration programs; improve information sharing among law enforcement; and establish sex offender prevention and education programs.

I'm proud of the progress SMART has made in its first decade and we know that much more work remains. I look forward to many more successful years helping jurisdictions properly manage sex offenders so we can continue to better inform and protect the public.

Please follow our newsletter, the SMART Watch Dispatch, for further updates on SMART and from the field.

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