SORNA Implementation Guidance
Since the last issue of SMART Watch, significant progress has been made in SORNA implementation. In fall 2009, the SMART Office found that three jurisdictions (two tribes and one state) have substantially implemented SORNA. Despite this progress, however, much work remains to be done in a short amount of time. The original deadline for jurisdictions to substantially implement SORNA was July 27, 2009. All jurisdictions requested—and received—a 1-year extension to July 26, 2010, and may request an additional 1-year extension, bringing the final implementation deadline to July 26, 2011.
This article provides tips and resources to help your jurisdiction move toward substantial implementation, focusing on issues relating to information sharing and the complex area of tribal-state communications. The article includes the following sections:
- Public Sex Offender Registry Website Interface With NSOPW
- Information Sharing Within the State and With Other Jurisdictions
- Foreign Relocation Procedures
- State/Tribal Interface
- SMART Help
Public Sex Offender Registry Website Interface With NSOPW
SORNA requires that every jurisdiction's public sex offender registry website fully participate in the National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW). As NSOPW's capacity expands to include additional methods of searching and displaying information (to include geographic radius searches), jurisdictions will need to ensure that all of the necessary registration information is being forwarded to NSOPW, preferably by way of a web service. If a tribe is using the Tribe and Territory Sex Offender Registry System, this interface is automatic. (See Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website for more information.)
Information Sharing Within the State and With Other Jurisdictions
Information sharing is a core component of SORNA. It is critical to effective investigation, enforcement, and notification. As we review jurisdictions' submissions, we will ask how information is shared within the jurisdiction (from local registry offices to jurisdiction-wide registration officials) and how the jurisdiction plans to exchange information with all of the SORNA registration jurisdictions. It is also important for states to establish information sharing systems with the implementing tribes in their state. We have developed software tools to assist states, territories, and tribes.
Foreign Relocation Procedures
SORNA mandates that the U.S. Department of Justice, in conjunction with the U.S. Departments of Homeland Security and State, develop a system for tracking sex offenders as they enter and depart the United States. Part of the system's tapestry is the SORNA final guidelines requirement that jurisdictions follow certain procedures when registered sex offenders notify them of their intent to relocate to a foreign country. In our review of implementation packages, we will ensure that these procedures are followed.
Tribes may find it beneficial to enter into memoranda of understanding (MOU) or cooperative agreements with states or county/municipal governments to handle aspects of the registration process or for all registration and notification functions. These types of agreements must be formal and have legal authority. If such MOUs are in place, state and tribal implementation submissions to the SMART Office must include copies of any such agreements and paperwork. In addition, if state law or policy allows for tribes to submit fingerprints, palm prints, and DNA to national databases through state systems, states and tribes should work together to ensure that a formalized process is in place for these submissions. For states that are responsible for sex offender registration and notification on tribal lands, we will be reviewing those states' efforts to include the tribes in their registration and notification systems. For more information on SORNA in Indian Country, please see our article SORNA Implementation Issues in Indian Country in this issue of SMART Watch.
As always, we recommend that jurisdictions contact SMART Office staff for assistance in developing SORNA substantial implementation packages for review. All states, territories, and tribes have an assigned SMART Office policy advisor. If you have questions about SORNA, the final guidelines, or SMART's role, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Office of Justice Programs
U.S. Department of Justice
810 Seventh St. NW
Washington, DC 20531
Substantial Implementation Framework
Many jurisdictions have asked the SMART Office to clarify how we conduct a substantial implementation review. Because every jurisdiction's laws and policies differ, we must work within the framework of SORNA's final guidelines provided by the Attorney General, and we offer the following guidance to help your jurisdiction institute SORNA-compliant laws, policies, and procedures.
The guidelines state that jurisdictions' programs cannot be approved if they substitute some approach to sex offender registration and notification that does not incorporate SORNA's baseline requirements. In addition, the guidelines state that implementation programs cannot be approved if they dispense wholesale with categorical requirements set forth in SORNA.
On the other hand, the guidelines do provide that we may approve a jurisdiction's implementation efforts that do not exactly follow all specifications of SORNA or the guidelines. The guidelines require us to consider, on a case-by-case basis, whether jurisdictions' departure from a SORNA requirement will or will not substantially disserve the objectives of the requirement.
After assessing whether a jurisdiction has sufficiently addressed each SORNA requirement, we examine the jurisdiction's implementation program as a whole to determine if it promotes the overall objectives of SORNA.
Our best advice? Jurisdictions should reach out to us as early as possible when developing their SORNA implementation program and discuss with us specific issues that may arise. We will be as flexible as possible within the framework established by the Act and the guidelines, and we look forward to advising each jurisdiction in efforts to achieve substantial implementation.
As more jurisdictions implement SORNA, we will provide additional context for the substantial implementation framework.
Ohio: Timeline of SMART's Review
Ohio first submitted its substantial implementation package to us in June 2008. In January 2009, after ongoing discussion and clarification sessions with Ohio, we determined that the state had not substantially implemented SORNA and issued a final report to the Ohio Attorney General's Office. From January 2009 to September 2009, Ohio worked on the issues that had been raised in this report, many of which the state addressed and resolved via administrative actions. In September 2009, we determined that Ohio had substantially implemented SORNA.
The Ohio Attorney General's Office estimates Ohio's SORNA implementation costs to be approximately $400,000.
Spotlight on Indian Country
DOJ Indian Country Law Enforcement Initiative
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) convened a listening session with tribal leaders from around the country on October 28–29, 2009, during which tribal leaders shared their concerns about high rates of violent crime threatening public safety in Indian Country. As a result of this session, Attorney General Holder announced an initiative on January 11, 2010, to improve public safety for the 564 federally recognized Indian tribes in the United States. In addition, he announced the DOJ's FY 2010 appropriation of an additional $6 million for Indian Country prosecution efforts.
As part of this new initiative, the Deputy Attorney General sent a memorandum to all United States Attorneys (USAOs) with Indian Country in their districts identifying "the goal of combating violence against women and children in tribal communities" as a top priority. The memorandum directs the USAOs, in collaboration with local law enforcement, to consult annually with the tribes in their districts and to develop operational plans addressing public safety in Indian Country.
Districts with non-Public Law 280 and partial Public Law 280 tribes are encouraged to include several core elements in their operational plans, including arrangements to—
- Develop and foster an ongoing government-to-government relationship with tribes.
- Improve communications with each tribe.
- Initiate cross-deputization agreements, special law enforcement commission training, and a tribal Special Assistant U.S. Attorney program.
- Establish training for USAO staff and relevant criminal justice personnel on Indian Country criminal jurisdiction and legal issues.
The memorandum directs that reports of sexual assault or domestic violence crimes "should be investigated wherever credible evidence of violations of federal law exists, and prosecuted when the Principles of Federal Prosecution are met." This responsibility is clearly extended to misdemeanor assaults committed by non-Indian offenders against American Indian women on federally recognized reservations. The memorandum concludes that "this directive creates a structure through which U.S. Attorneys will develop targeted plans to help make tribal communities in their districts safer, and to turn back the unacceptable tide of domestic and sexual violence there."
Training Events for Tribes and Territories
Since the release of the Tribe and Territory Sex Offender Registry System (TTSORS), the SMART Office has been working diligently to train the 197 implementing Indian tribes and 3 U.S. territories on the system. The SMART Office has sponsored four 1-day TTSORS training events throughout the country, including Tulsa, Oklahoma; Seattle, Washington; Santa Ana, New Mexico; and Las Vegas, Nevada. These training events have been a great success, reaching approximately 100 different jurisdictions.
Representatives from tribes and territories obtained training on all the features and functions of TTSORS and learned about all the additional Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) requirements. During the events, attendees were able to interact with the developers of TTSORS and the SMART Office staff responsible for assisting the jurisdictions with substantially implementing SORNA.
SORNA Implementation Issues in Indian Country
This article provides additional guidance and resources for the 197 tribes that are preparing for substantial implementation of SORNA and includes discussions of—
A tribal model code.
Submission of DNA, fingerprints, and palm prints.
Contextual information for your substantial implementation materials.
Tribal Model Code
A leading group of tribal experts and attorneys, in conjunction with the SMART Office, developed a SORNA-compliant Model Tribal Sex Offender Registration Code to assist tribes in structuring their sex offender registration and notification policies. It may not be entirely necessary for all tribes to have a sex offender registry code; some tribes may enter into memoranda of understanding (MOU) or cooperative agreements with states or county/municipal governments to handle aspects of the registration process or for all registration and notification functions. In these instances, policies and procedures will be necessary to direct offenders and officials alike on how registration and notification will take place. Further, an MOU or cooperative agreement needs to have legal weight and authority. Other tribes may adopt many of the code's provisions as well as a policy and procedures manual delineating other administrative functions of their registration and notification processes. In any case, tribes should be sure to submit any sex offender registration and notification code, policy, and procedure manuals to us with their SORNA substantial implementation packages.
Submission of DNA, Fingerprints, and Palm Prints
Tribes must ensure that sex offender registration data are submitted into the National Sex Offender Registry, which is a component of the FBI's National Crime Information Center. Additionally, SORNA provisions require that DNA samples be collected for all sex offender registrants and submitted to CODIS (Combined DNA Index System). Finger and palm prints must also be taken and submitted to the FBI's Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System. Submissions must be made either directly, through the state (through an MOU), or through some other means. In working with the SMART Office, tribes have identified obstacles to these submissions. If your tribe is having difficulty with any of these issues, please let us know so that we can have an accurate picture of the problem and can develop an appropriate solution. We will be issuing further guidance on these complex issues over the coming months. Check our website regularly for updates.
Contextual Information for Submissions
In submitting materials to us, tribes should include responses to the following questions, which will provide additional—and necessary—context for their submissions:
- Does the tribe possess any land? Is this land occupied? If so, how many residents reside on tribal land? Where is it located?
- Does the tribe own any businesses? What type, size, and location? How does the tribe intend to notify sex offenders of their obligation to register if they work on tribal property?
- Does the tribe have a tribal court? A police department? What type and size? Does the tribe have a jail? If not, where are tribal offenders housed? How does the tribe plan to notify inmates who are required to register of their obligations to do so?
- Who will be responsible for sex offender registration and notification for the tribe? Where will offenders register and update their registration information?
- What public website system will the tribe use if the tribe is setting up its own public website? We provide free software for this purpose. In addition to a public website and email notification system, what other methods of notification might the tribe use (e.g., mail notices to tribal members, post data in publicly accessible kiosks, provide information at community meetings)?
One final note: Tribes should be sure to provide updated contact information whenever there is a change in leadership or in the people assigned to implementation.
As always, we recommend that tribes contact the SMART Office for assistance in developing SORNA substantial implementation packages for review.
Office of Justice Programs
U.S. Department of Justice
810 Seventh St. NW
Washington, DC 20531
SORNA Deadline Extension Requests
SORNA registration jurisdictions have until July 27, 2010, to substantially implement requirements for registering and monitoring sex offenders under the SORNA provisions of the Adam Walsh Act. However, jurisdictions may request an additional 1-year extension by submitting an extension request form to the SMART Office.
The extension request form requires jurisdictions to indicate the specific efforts currently in process or on the horizon to substantially implement SORNA by July 2011.
Jurisdictions will be asked to provide information concerning—
- Legislative activity.
- Updates to its public sex offender website.
- Notification programs.
- Administrative policies and procedures.
- Information sharing with other relevant agencies.
- Collaboration with Indian tribes that may reside in the jurisdiction.
The SMART Office has two extension request forms available: one for the states, territories, and the District of Columbia and one for tribal jurisdictions. These forms have been mailed to authorities in all registration jurisdictions.
Jurisdictions must complete the form and return it to the SMART Office no later than July 1, 2010, to allow the SMART Office sufficient time to approve the request before the July 27, 2010, deadline. However, if your jurisdiction plans to submit an application for grant funding in response to the SMART FY 2010 Support for Adam Walsh Act Implementation Grant solicitation, please note that an extension request must be submitted by April 26, 2010, as a condition of the grant application.
2010 Workshop and Symposium
The SMART Office will hold its 2010 National Workshop on Adam Walsh Act Implementation and the National Symposium on Sex Offender Management and Accountability from May 18 to 20 at the Hilton Portland and Executive Tower in Portland, Oregon. This year's theme is "Information Sharing." The symposium will feature presentations for sex offender registry officials, probation and parole officers, treatment experts, tribal representatives, prosecutors, and practitioners on how to effectively monitor, register, track, and manage sex offenders.
The symposium will include various presentations, from sessions highlighting law enforcement resources for tracking offenders to an in-depth presentation on sex offender behavior. Concurrent presentations will be spread across three tracks:
- Comprehensive Approaches to Sex Offender Management (CASOM): Principles in Practice will feature methods of implementing CASOM in sex offender management practices.
- Indian Country will highlight issues of implementation, including Indian Country's ability to capture and share information on its sex offenders. In addition, this track will include information on forensic interviewing and other victim-related issues in Indian Country.
- Policy and Other Considerations will likewise cover matters of information sharing by and between registration jurisdictions and will include updates on sex offender-related research and the work of the Office of Justice Programs regarding sex offenders.
The symposium will feature a keynote presentation by Erin Runnion, a surviving parent and Founding Director of The Joyful Child Foundation, on the community-based programs that the foundation has developed to protect children from sexual predators.
Registration for this year's conference is free of charge.
Protecting Children Through Strong Partnerships
According to Timothy Williams, Director of the United States National Central Bureau (USNCB), "there is nothing more important than securing the welfare of our children around the world."
USNCB, managed by the U.S. Departments of Justice and Homeland Security, is the communications link between U.S. law enforcement agencies and their counterparts in INTERPOL's 188 member countries. USNCB is responsible for all INTERPOL notices on behalf of U.S. authorities and, in turn, for alerting U.S. authorities to the existence of INTERPOL notices issued by other countries.
USNCB is in a unique position to help in the global fight against child exploitation. It has proactively developed initiatives to assist in tracking convicted sex offenders, combating sex tourism, and eliminating the incidence of children exposed to violence. USNCB is committed to working with law enforcement and non-law enforcement partners to protect the safety and well-being of children through multiple initiatives.
Recovering Missing and Abducted Children
Almost daily, USNCB receives requests from INTERPOL's member countries to locate and recover children who may have been brought into the United States illegally from their nations of origin. USNCB coordinates with all appropriate law enforcement officials, foreign National Central Bureaus, the U.S. State Department, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to locate these children and secure their safe return. In addition, USNCB supports state, local, and tribal agencies within the United States by providing the same services for locating and ensuring the safe return of U.S. children who may have been taken to a foreign country.
Tracking Convicted Sex Offenders
USNCB helps track convicted sex offenders who relocate, visit, or are deported to foreign countries by issuing international notifications. Also, USNCB immediately notifies U.S. law enforcement agencies upon receiving information that convicted, foreign sex offenders are traveling to this country. USNCB also assists the U.S. Marshals Service and other federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies in apprehending noncompliant fugitive sex offenders who flee overseas.
Combating Sex Tourism
USNCB uses the INTERPOL notice system to—
- Track selected sex offenders in support of ongoing investigations.
- Locate and identify international victims and witnesses.
- Compile and analyze notices pertaining to the travels of sex offenders to forecast trends and identify areas of international focus.
Expanding Current Resources
Implementation of the Adam Walsh Act and other recent legislation has emphasized the importance of international cooperation in managing sex offenders, which has led to a tremendous increase in the number of U.S. states reporting convicted sex offenders who are traveling overseas. USNCB is proposing an expansion of the resources it currently dedicates to the fight against child exploitation. Director Williams has placed this initiative high on his list of priorities.
FY 2010 Funding Resources
The SMART Office continues to support jurisdictions' implementation of SORNA requirements through the Support for Adam Walsh Act Implementation Grant Program. Funding for this solicitation has increased substantially since FY 2009; in FY 2010, approximately $10 million will be made available to SORNA jurisdictions, with individual grant awards of up to $300,000. Applications must clearly demonstrate that at least one requirement of SORNA will be implemented as a result of the funded project.
Deadline: March 5
Two additional SMART Office solicitations support implementation projects and training and technical assistance under the Comprehensive Approaches to Sex Offender Management Grant Program.
- Eligible applicants for implementation grants include states, the District of Columbia, territories, and certain federally recognized Indian tribes.
- Eligible applicants for the training and technical assistance cooperative agreement include nonprofit and for-profit organizations (including tribal organizations) and institutions of higher education (including tribal organizations of higher education).
Deadline: March 18
Finally, the SMART Office is inviting applications for funding to support maintenance and operation of the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website. All solicitations are posted on—
The SMART Office's Funding Resources page.
Deadline: April 12
The SMART Office has revised the SORNA Substantial Implementation Checklist, which was first issued in summer 2008. As it has been put into practice, we have discovered ways in which to improve its utility for jurisdictions. This revised checklist streamlines and simplifies SORNA's basic requirements in an easy-to-use format, with a particular emphasis on information sharing—one of SORNA's primary goals.
The revised checklist makes two substantive changes to the previous version:
- Sex Trafficking of Children by Force, Fraud, or Coercion (18 U.S.C. 1591) was incorrectly listed as a Tier I Offense on the first version of the checklist; it is a Tier II Offense.
- The Kids Act of 2008 (42 U.S.C. § 16915a & b.) amended the SORNA provisions of the Adam Walsh Act by adding Internet identifiers as items that are not permitted to be displayed on sex offender public websites.
We encourage jurisdictions to use this revised checklist as a part of the implementation process. Please note that the checklist does not contain every one of SORNA's requirements; jurisdictions should work closely with their assigned policy advisors throughout the implementation process to ensure that all the necessary issues for substantial implementation are addressed.
Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website
The U.S. Department of Justice's Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW) provides the public with free, immediate access to all jurisdictions' sex offender registries—all with one query from a single website. NSOPW is the only government system to link public state, territory, and tribal sex offender registries from a national search site. NSOPW allows jurisdictions to participate in an unprecedented public safety resource by sharing public sex offender data nationwide, working collaboratively for the safety of our vulnerable adults and one of our most precious resources—our children.
New to NSOPW
Recently, NSOPW was enhanced by the addition of a sexual abuse education and prevention section. The information contained in this new section will assist the public in learning the facts about sexual abuse and ways of protecting themselves and loved ones from potential victimization. The section is organized into three groups—children, teens, and adults—and each is prefaced by facts and followed by prevention and education materials and additional links to resources designed to assist parents and caregivers.
During the past 6 months, the SMART Office has continued to work with states to expand the information that is provided to NSOPW, such as offender images, multiple addresses, name aliases, address mapping, and other personal information. This additional information will enhance the site's utility, adding functionality and potentially adding to the thousands of people who currently use the site each day.
Many states have already begun the process of expanding the type of sex offender information they provide to NSOPW. Tennessee and South Dakota have now joined Louisiana in providing this additional information to bring their states' participation with NSOPW into compliance with SORNA. Additionally, several other states are actively working on expanding the information they share with NSOPW.
To assist the states in this effort, the SMART Office is making the software that was developed to help states become SORNA-compliant more accessible and is providing technical assistance to help states meet this requirement. For more information about this software, or for technical assistance, email [email protected].
Sex Offender Registry Tool
The Sex Offender Registry Tool (SORT) is a sex offender management application provided by the SMART Office at no cost to assist states in implementing the SORNA registry system requirements of the Adam Walsh Act. SORT makes the registry setup and maintenance process as efficient and effective as possible.
SORT serves a dual purpose: it provides local registration agencies with their own specialized public sex offender registry websites and it functions as the state-level administrative registry system. The SORT application improves information-sharing capabilities by providing electronic community notifications, allowing automatic participation with the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website, creating sex offender registration files that comply with the National Information Exchange Model to be shared between jurisdictions, and enabling law enforcement to locate sex offender registration information by searching on any field or combination of fields.
Local jurisdictions can customize their public website's design by selecting from six available templates or by creating their own template. They also can access the centralized system so that the state's sex offender registry information is always up to date. State registry personnel can validate any information entered or modified in the system before it is made available to the public. Each state can modify or expand the application as needed using the source code provided. Ongoing technical assistance and support are not available; individual jurisdictions that elect to install and use SORT must maintain the system.
To get your state started, email [email protected] or call the Institute for Intergovernmental Research at 850-385-0600, ext. 222, for additional information.
In This Newsletter
Spotlight on Indian Country
- DOJ Indian Country Law Enforcement Initiative
- Training Events for Tribes and Territories
- SORNA Implementation Issues in Indian Country
- SORNA Deadline Extension Requests
- 2010 Workshop and Symposium
- Protecting Children Through Strong Partnerships