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States' SORNA Implementation Journeys: Lessons Learned and Policy Implications

NCJ Number
New Criminal Law Review Volume: 23 Issue: 3 Dated: 2020 Pages: 315-365
Date Published
51 pages

This study examined states' experiences in their efforts to align their sex offender registration and notification (SORN) policies with the provisions of the federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), which was enacted in 2006 to improve interjurisdictional consistency and coordination in state SORN policies.


At the time of the current study, which was conducted 14 years after SORNA enactment, a majority of states had not yet met SORNA implementation thresholds due to legal, political, fiscal, and practical challenges. Based on data obtained from a diverse sample of 10 states, this study found significant variation in the breadth and extent of state compliance with SORNA requirements. The intent of the current study is to provide insights and perspectives that can inform the ongoing refinement of federal and state SORN policies intended to improve the prevention of and response to sex offenses. SORNA envisioned a "comprehensive national system" for the registration of individuals convicted of sex offenses. Its key provisions broadened the scope and range of federal requirements for SORN systems operating within jurisdictions covered under SORNA mandates. In addition, it expanded interstate enforcement efforts through the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS), established provisions for federal criminal prosecution of interstate "failure to register" cases, launched federal grant programs to support states in meeting SORNA's goals, and called for federally managed information systems to improve the interjurisdictional exchange of information among criminal justice agencies and expand public access to registrant information. The current analysis reveals a range of state experiences with SORNA implementation, including significant variation in the breadth and extent of required system changes; the legal, political, and organizational dynamics in state efforts toward implementation; and the scope and nature of perceived implementation barriers. The states studied are Michigan, Pennsylvania, Alabama, Florida, Missouri, California, Texas, Washington, Iowa, and New Mexico. 4 figures and 35 references

Date Published: January 1, 2020