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DOJ Works With Jurisdictions To Comply With Sex Offender Act


January 13, 2011 - Laurie O. Robinson, Assistant Attorney General, Office of Justice Programs, opened the 2011 National Workshop on the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA).

"This workshop provides an opportunity for the Department of Justice to further assist jurisdictions who are working to implement reliable and effective sex offender registration and notification systems in conformance with the Adam Walsh Act," said Assistant Attorney General Robinson."  

More than 240 SORNA jurisdictional representatives from states, territories and tribes gathered to participate in a workshop designed to further assist jurisdictions in their efforts to implement SORNA, Title I of the Adam Walsh Act of 2006, before the final deadline of July 27, 2011.


The SORNA Workshop was convened by the Justice Department's Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering and Tracking (SMART). Coinciding with the Workshop was the Department of Justice's release of supplemental guidelines for SORNA. The SORNA Supplemental Guidelines address, among other things, public notification of juveniles adjudicated delinquent for serious sex crimes, the posting of sex offender information, such as email addresses and other Internet identifiers, and reporting of international travel requirements.

Other issues addressed in the Supplemental Guidelines include on-going review of SORNA implementation, the sharing of information across jurisdictions, and the application of SORNA to newly federally-recognized Indian tribes. The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act is a federal statute that was signed into law by U.S. President George W. Bush on July 27, 2006. The Walsh Act organizes sex offenders into three tiers and mandates that Tier 3 offenders (the most serious tier) update their whereabouts every three months with lifetime registration requirements.  

Tier 2 offenders must update their whereabouts every six months with 25 years of registration, and Tier 1 offenders (which includes minors as young as 14 years of age) must update their whereabouts every year with 15 years of registration. Failure to register and update information is a felony under the law. 

The Act also creates a national sex offender registry and instructs each state and territory to apply identical criteria for posting offender data on the Internet (i.e., offender's name, address, date of birth, place of employment, photograph, etc.). The Act was named for Adam Walsh, an American boy who was abducted from a Florida shopping mall and later found murdered. It also contains civil commitment provisions for sexually dangerous persons.


The Adam Walsh Act emerged from Congress following the passage of separate bills in the House and Senate (H.R. 3132 and S. 1086 respectively). The Act is also known as the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), the majority of the provisions of which were enacted as 42 U.S.C. §16911 et seq. The act’s provisions fall into four categories: a revised sex offender registration system, child and sex related amendments to federal criminal and procedure, child protective grant programs, and other initiatives designed to prevent and punish sex offenders and those who victimize children.

The sex offender registration provisions replace the Jacob Wetterling Act provisions with a statutory scheme under which states are required to modify their registration systems in accordance with federal requirements at the risk of losing 10% of their Byrne program[clarification needed] law enforcement assistance funds. The act seeks to close gaps in the prior system, provide more information on a wider range of offenders, and make the information more readily available to the public and law enforcement officials. 

In the area of federal criminal law and procedure, the act enlarges the kidnapping statute, increases the number of federal capital offenses, enhances the mandatory minimum terms of imprisonment and other penalties that attend various federal sex offenses, establishes a civil commitment procedure for federal sex offenders, authorizes random searches as a condition for sex offender probation and supervised release, outlaws Internet date drug trafficking, permits the victims of state crimes to participate in related federal habeas corpus proceedings, and eliminates the statute of limitations for certain sex offenses and crimes committed against children. 

The act revives the authorization of appropriations under the Police Athletic Youth Enrichment Act among its other grant provisions and requires the establishment of a national child abuse registry among its other child safety initiatives. The Act also establishes a post-conviction civil commitment scheme. Section 4248 of the Act contains the Commitment Provision, which authorizes the federal government to initiate commitment proceedings with respect to any federal prisoner in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons. 

Under this provision, even prisoners who have never been previously charged with or convicted of a sex crime may be civilly committed after completing their entire prison sentence. Prior to Supreme Court Review, the federal Circuit courts were split on the question of whether Congress had the authority to enact this provision. On May 17, 2010, the Supreme Court upheld the law, and ruled in United States v. Comstock that the Civil Commitment Provision was within Congress‘s authority.  

At the time of passage, at least 100,000 of more than a half million sex offenders in the United States and the District of Columbia were 'missing' and unregistered as required by law. The act allocated federal funding was to assist states in maintaining and improving these programs so a comprehensive system for tracking sex offenders and alerting communities would be developed.  

The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act was signed on the 25th anniversary of the abduction of Adam Walsh from a shopping mall in Florida. Adam Walsh was found murdered 16 days after his abduction in 1981, and the perpetrator was not named until December 16, 2008, when the Hollywood, Florida police department announced that they had evidence that Ottis Toole was the killer. Adam Walsh's father is John Walsh, host of the television series America's Most Wanted.


John Walsh, also founder of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), was joined by other children's advocates to mount an aggressive campaign to get the bill passed into law. As part of the campaign, Walsh was joined by Congressman Sensenbrenner, representatives from the NCMEC, and other victims' advocates and parents.  

These included Patty Wetterling, children's advocate from Minnesota and mother of missing child Jacob Wetterling, abducted in October 1989; Mark Lunsford, whose daughter Jessica was killed in Florida in 2005; Linda Walker, the mother of North Dakota college student Dru Sjodin who was kidnapped and murdered by a released Minnesota sex offender in November 2003; and Erin Runnion, whose five-year-old daughter Samantha Runnion was raped and killed in California in 2002.

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