Remarks of Laurie Robinson, Assistant Attorney General
Office of Justice Programs
2011 National Workshop on SORNA Implementation
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Thank you, Linda, and good morning! I'm so pleased to be here. And it's great to see so many people from across the country who are committed to this important work.
I'll have a chance in a moment to say a few words, but before I do, I have the real pleasure of introducing a videotaped greeting from the Attorney General. His schedule is pretty tight these days - I'm sure you can imagine! - but he wanted you to know how important this issue is to him and how much he really appreciates the work all of you are doing. Can we play the video?
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As you can see, Eric Holder is an Attorney General who understands the challenges you're facing - and he appreciates the work each of you is doing in your states and communities. If there's one thing I hope you'll take away from his remarks - and from what I say - it's that this Department of Justice knows just how difficult these challenges are.
Citizens are counting on you to keep them safe. That's why our systems for registering offenders and notifying the public of their whereabouts have to be accurate, up to date, and effective. I know you've all been working hard to make sure those systems are in good order, and I applaud your efforts.
I also really want to commend Linda and the SMART Office staff. They've been working so tirelessly to make sure you have the tools you need.
They've provided free software to improve information sharing and data collection.
They've developed a series of documents providing guidance on SORNA implementation.
They've been working closely with tribes to address implementation issues in Indian country.
And they've been traveling the country to provide training and technical assistance to jurisdictions across America.
They're not a large staff - in fact, they're pretty small - but you wouldn't know it by all the work they're doing.
But I want to tell you - this commitment extends beyond the SMART Office. It goes all the way up to the highest levels of the Obama Administration - to the President himself. I want you to know that he spoke about his commitment in an interview last year with John Walsh. He mentioned the increased funding he requested from Congress to help with Adam Walsh implementation, and he talked about our strong support of your efforts.
Speaking of SORNA implementation, he said - and I quote - "We are going to do everything in our power. . . to make sure that we're providing the states the support that they need to make this happen."
And you just heard the Attorney General describe the work of managing sex offenders as "one of the most important public safety initiatives of our time."
This isn't just rhetoric, either. Last year, we gave out more than $13 million to states, territories, tribes, and communities to enhance sex offender management, registration, and notification efforts. And the President has asked for another $20 million in his budget request for this year.
Now, I think you know the budget's in Congress's hands at this point - we're awaiting our appropriation - but I'm hopeful they'll support the President's request. There's backing for this on both sides of the aisle.
In the meantime, we continue to move forward in other ways. The Attorney General mentioned the supplemental SORNA guidelines. He just signed off on those late last week - you notice the video was filmed before that happened - and we're publishing and releasing them today. I know the SMART Office has distributed copies here - hot off the press.
The supplemental guidelines address many of the issues that have come up since the original guidelines were published in 2008. I have to tell you, these are important to me. When I came into the Administration two years ago, one of the things we had heard a great deal about during the Obama transition was the need for some greater flexibility. I think the SMART Office under Linda's leadership has done that, and these guidelines are one example.
I also want to take a moment to acknowledge the unique issues that tribes are facing. I'm glad to see so many people here representing tribal communities. I don't have to tell any of you that the issues of registration and notification in Indian country are particularly complex. Please know that we're working very hard to help you meet your unique challenges.
For example, the SMART Office developed the Tribe and Territory Sex Offender Registry System to make it easier for tribes to stand up their own systems for registering offenders. I understand 110 tribes have taken advantage of that tool. More than 40 tribes are already using it as their live sex offender management system and public registry Web site. And more than 20 of those are now connected to the National Sex Offender Public Web site - the remaining tribes are in the testing stage.
The SMART staff has also worked with Indian country attorneys to develop a model Sex Offender Code, which we're updating to reflect changes from the Tribal Law and Order Act that President Obama signed into law last year.
We've also been working with tribes on some of the technology issues related to DNA and fingerprint submissions and access to the National Sex Offender Registry.
And we continue to provide training and consultation to tribes, both to help strengthen their systems and to level the playing field when it comes to grants and funding. In fact, tomorrow - after this workshop - the SMART Office will hold a session for tribes on applying for grants.
We'll continue to make our resources available to those of you from tribal communities.
But we know these are tough issues all around - for tribes, for states, and for the territories. Our job is to help you navigate the issues - and meet the requirements that Congress set forth when it passed the Adam Walsh Act - and these difficult economic times don't make that any easier.
That's why it's so important that we continue to pool our ideas and figure out ways that we can help you meet the challenges of SORNA implementation.
We know that your commitment and expertise will be critical going forward. Significant challenges lie ahead - rest assured, no one at the Department of Justice takes them lightly. But I'm confident that, working together, we'll find ways to overcome these difficulties, fulfill the promise of SORNA, and keep our communities safe.
Thank you for your time, and thank you for your service to the citizens of America.
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