Spotlight on Indian Country

SORNA Implementation Issues in Indian Country

This article provides additional guidance and resources for the 197 tribes that are preparing for substantial implementation of SORNA and includes discussions of—

Tribal Model Code

A leading group of tribal experts and attorneys, in conjunction with the SMART Office, developed a SORNA-compliant Model Tribal Sex Offender Registration Code to assist tribes in structuring their sex offender registration and notification policies. It may not be entirely necessary for all tribes to have a sex offender registry code; some tribes may enter into memoranda of understanding (MOU) or cooperative agreements with states or county/municipal governments to handle aspects of the registration process or for all registration and notification functions. In these instances, policies and procedures will be necessary to direct offenders and officials alike on how registration and notification will take place. Further, an MOU or cooperative agreement needs to have legal weight and authority. Other tribes may adopt many of the code's provisions as well as a policy and procedures manual delineating other administrative functions of their registration and notification processes. In any case, tribes should be sure to submit any sex offender registration and notification code, policy, and procedure manuals to us with their SORNA substantial implementation packages.

Submission of DNA, Fingerprints, and Palm Prints

Tribes must ensure that sex offender registration data are submitted into the National Sex Offender Registry, which is a component of the FBI's National Crime Information Center. Additionally, SORNA provisions require that DNA samples be collected for all sex offender registrants and submitted to CODIS (Combined DNA Index System). Finger and palm prints must also be taken and submitted to the FBI's Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System. Submissions must be made either directly, through the state (through an MOU), or through some other means. In working with the SMART Office, tribes have identified obstacles to these submissions. If your tribe is having difficulty with any of these issues, please let us know so that we can have an accurate picture of the problem and can develop an appropriate solution. We will be issuing further guidance on these complex issues over the coming months. Check our website regularly for updates.

Contextual Information for Submissions

In submitting materials to us, tribes should include responses to the following questions, which will provide additional—and necessary—context for their submissions:

  • Does the tribe possess any land? Is this land occupied? If so, how many residents reside on tribal land? Where is it located?
  • Does the tribe own any businesses? What type, size, and location? How does the tribe intend to notify sex offenders of their obligation to register if they work on tribal property?
  • Does the tribe have a tribal court? A police department? What type and size? Does the tribe have a jail? If not, where are tribal offenders housed? How does the tribe plan to notify inmates who are required to register of their obligations to do so?
  • Who will be responsible for sex offender registration and notification for the tribe? Where will offenders register and update their registration information?
  • What public website system will the tribe use if the tribe is setting up its own public website? We provide free software for this purpose. In addition to a public website and email notification system, what other methods of notification might the tribe use (e.g., mail notices to tribal members, post data in publicly accessible kiosks, provide information at community meetings)?

One final note: Tribes should be sure to provide updated contact information whenever there is a change in leadership or in the people assigned to implementation.


As always, we recommend that tribes contact the SMART Office for assistance in developing SORNA substantial implementation packages for review.

SMART Office
Office of Justice Programs
U.S. Department of Justice
810 7th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20531
202–616–2906 (fax)
[email protected]

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