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Implementing the Adam Walsh Act's Sex Offender Registration and Notification Provisions: A Survey of the States

NCJ Number
Criminal Justice Policy Review Volume: 21 Issue: 2 Dated: June 2010 Pages: 202-222
Andrew J. Harris; Christopher Lobanov-Rostovsky
Date Published
June 2010
21 pages
This study examined the consistency between Federal sex offender registry and notification standards and State policies, and explored the operational, legal, fiscal, and practical issues associated with States achieving compliance with the Federal guidelines.
With the 2006 passage of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act (AWA), the United States Congress established a range of requirements for sex offender registration and notification (R&N) systems operated by States, tribal jurisdictions, and U.S. territories. In the years since the law's passage, these congressional mandates have generated concern within some covered jurisdictions and among national organizations over matters such as the perceived undermining of jurisdictional autonomy, the variance between the law and emerging "best practices," and perceived threats to the viability of State-based sex offender management efforts. To examine these concerns, a national survey was conducted in the fall of 2008 to evaluate the consistency between AWA requirements and existing State policies and practices, and to assess State-based barriers to AWA implementation. The survey results identified several areas of inconsistency between AWA mandates and State practices, particularly those relating to inclusion of juveniles, classification methods, and retroactive application of R&N requirements. The study revealed the barriers to AWA implementation within many States to be multifaceted and complex, suggesting the potential need for a recalibration of Federal policy governing registration and notification. Implications for the respective roles of Federal and State governments in the shaping of sex offender policy are discussed. Tables, figure, notes, and references (Published Abstract)