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Estimating the Impacts of SORNA in Pennsylvania - The Potential Consequences of Including Juveniles

NCJ Number
Date Published
May 2015
205 pages
This study examined Pennsylvania's legislative version of the Federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA; 2006), which establishes a uniform, offense-based registration system for sex offenders ages 14 and older, with a focus on the potential consequences of including juveniles in the registration system.

Pennsylvania's SORNA law created a hierarchical, three-tier classification scheme in which convictions of the most severe sex offenses result in Tier III assignment, and convictions of the least severe offenses are placed in Tier I. Juveniles are treated the same as adults when adjudicated of Tier III offenses, such as rape and aggravated indecent assault. Tier III assignment requires lifetime registration and notification for offenders in jurisdictions in which they live, work, and go to school. Pennsylvania's law was implemented in December 2012. The current study was conducted before any assessment of the law's impact had been performed. This study focused on the system resources needed to implement the legislation, including personnel, costs, and improvements to technologies necessary to create and disseminate information on sex offenders. Attention was given to the potential effects of the law based on the inclusion of juveniles in the registration system. The overall conclusion of this study is that although there is "utility and arguably merit in sex offender registration and community notification practices, punitive policy drift has resulted in policies that are not considered best practice." The analysis revealed the prohibitive cost of the massive registration system required under the law. This study recommends tailoring the law to include only high-risk sex offenders in the system, i.e., those estimated to have a high probability of reoffending based on empirically based assessments. Juveniles would be excluded from the law based on developmental studies of adolescents. 17 tables, 9 figures, approximately 110 references, and appended study instruments and supplementary data.

Date Published: May 1, 2015