In Memoriam: Adam Walsh
By John Walsh
John Walsh is the father of Adam Walsh, the namesake of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, and a co-founder of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, where he currently serves on the board's chief executive officers council.
We were living in South Florida, and our 6-year-old son, Adam, loved nothing more than going to the beach. He loved to swim and snorkel. Like me, he was fascinated by the ocean and everything in it. Adam could name all the different types of fish and coral. He knew a trigger fish from a grouper.
My son was the kindest little boy to other children, especially younger kids. He’d share his toys with them, and his books, especially his favorite ones about the ocean and pirates. Like other boys his age, he was a baseball fan. But, frankly, he’d rather stop and examine a butterfly in the outfield than catch a fly ball.
Now, that image of Adam, holding a baseball bat, is seared in the nation’s consciousness. On July 27, 1981, during a trip to a shopping mall in Hollywood, Florida, Adam was abducted by a child predator. He was gone.
We were frantic parents with nowhere to turn. There was no local, state or federal agency that could help. At the time, stolen cars could be entered into the FBI’s national database — but not stolen children. There were no AMBER Alerts, no national missing children hotline. No emotional support system for distraught families like us. Two weeks after he vanished, Adam was found murdered, a day that forever changed the course of our lives.
We channeled our anger and our rage into helping families of other missing children. My wife, Revé, founded the Adam Walsh Resource Center in our garage off a card table and a landline that would later become the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. I went on to testify on Capitol Hill to get legislation passed to help other families and other victims. After that, I began hosting “America’s Most Wanted” and catching real criminals.
Since opening its doors, that tiny nonprofit has grown beyond belief. NCMEC has helped law enforcement find more than 260,000 missing children. It has distributed literally billions of missing-child posters, trained more than 350,000 law enforcement officers, prosecutors and health-care professionals and given emotional support to more than 70,000 distraught families. We could never have imagined the good it would do.
And it all came about because of Adam, because of our love and respect for the kind of person he was and how many other people loved him. He was the motivation to make something positive out of this tragedy. To make sure he didn’t die in vain. To make sure he wouldn’t just be another number, another murdered child, another statistic.
Twenty-five years after his abduction, Congress enacted the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, which gave law enforcement the tools to quickly take dangerous predators off the street.
The SMART Office took the bull by the horns and implemented the act at full speed. It has been the key component in making this important piece of legislation work, and by doing so America’s children are safer. The SMART Office is one of the most committed and proficient agencies I’ve ever dealt with. I give them a huge pat on the back. I couldn’t thank them enough.
From the Director
By Laura L. Rogers
Laura L. Rogers is currently the acting Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs.
It is an honor to serve as the Director of the SMART Office again. I rejoined the office on January 4, 2018. The growth and change in the office and in the implementation of SORNA since I left in 2009 is remarkable. When I departed the SMART Office at 11:50 a.m. January 20, 2009, the Tribe and Territory Sex Offender Registry System had gone live just minutes beforehand. I left relieved that the National Guidelines for Sex Offender Registration and Notification had been published and that the International Sex Offender Working Group was well established. The SMART Office had grown from a staff of one (me) to a handful of dedicated professionals. On the horizon was the massive task of substantial implementation for a country still trying to digest the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act/Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act and the National Guidelines.
Before the passage of SORNA, sex offender registration was inconsistent across the country. Some jurisdictions had functioning registration systems, while other jurisdictions had no registration laws in place. Jurisdictions without registration laws were literal safe havens for sex offenders, places where sex offenders fled to avoid registration and fly under the radar. Residents were unable to find out if their neighbors were sex offenders and make informed decisions for their families. States sharing borders had very different minimum standards, and much of Indian Country was without sex offender registration systems altogether.
Fast forward to today. Four of the five territories and 18 states have substantially implemented SORNA. But SORNA implementation is far more successful than what raw numbers indicate. SMART’s SORNA Implementation Progress Check, which summarizes what every state and territory has done to move closer to implementation, shows that six jurisdictions have only one or two issues left to reach substantial implementation. Several jurisdictions are in the process of passing new legislation that will bring them closer to substantial implementation. Several jurisdictions are implementing new international travel requirements as required by the supplemental guidelines of 2011. To be sure, there are issues, such as juvenile registration and listing offenders’ workplaces, that some jurisdictions oppose, but the SMART Office and regulatory guidance have found ways to accommodate jurisdictions’ positions that do not disserve the law. And, as always, the SMART Office continues to assist jurisdictions to work toward substantial implementation.
As of July 2018, 131 of 156 SORNA tribes have substantially implemented the law’s minimum standards. At the beginning of July, 147 tribes had fully functioning sex offender registries that linked to NSOPW.gov. The SMART Office, recognizing the vital need for tribes to have full access to federal criminal databases, implemented the Tribal Access Program. Currently, 41 tribes have TAP access, which allows tribal convictions, protective/stay away orders, DNA samples, fingerprints and other vital criminal data to be uploaded into federal databases. TAP tribes can also access criminal histories, foster care information, missing children information and victim protection orders. The list of TAP tribes continues to increase annually. This year, the SMART Office will fund the TAP program $2 million, along with COPS funding of $1.5 million.
The SMART Office also administers the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW.gov), which serves as a vital resource to the public in locating sex offenders. NSOPW.gov is the most-up-to-date public national resource providing free information on where sex offenders live, work and attend school. NSOPW.gov is updated daily with information provided from all 50 states, five U.S. territories, nearly 150 Indian tribes and the District of Columbia as sex offenders fulfill their SORNA obligations to update their registration information locally. New information is updated on the state, territory or tribal registry, which is then available directly through NSOPW. With its single-search capability, one query for a particular name, for example, can immediately access all the public registries across the nation.
The SMART Office has also created an NSOPW mobile app, giving the public the same access to a national database of information from any mobile device. Public usage of the app has been well-received, with 147,700 downloads and 1.4 million searches since its launch in 2016. Specific information available for each query is based on the information provided by the registering jurisdiction.
The public’s desire for the ability to arm themselves with information seems insatiable. With nearly 4 million searches per month on NSOPW and its app, parents can protect their children by making safe decisions about what babysitters to hire or what school to attend and employers can make well-informed decisions about whom to hire. At the same time, survivors of sexual assault and abuse can maintain awareness of perpetrators’ locations.
Since its inception, the office has awarded over $110 million to support the Adam Walsh Act Implementation Program, with 264 grant awards to states and territories and 239 grant awards to tribes to implement and enhance sex offender registration and management.
Where the country could once be described as a patchwork quilt with respect to sex offender registration and notification ??? with some jurisdictions having a complete dearth of laws and an unmanageable mixture of other systems throughout the country ??? SORNA’s minimum standards are replacing this patchwork quilt with a solid color blanket. With more than 150 jurisdictions having substantially implemented SORNA, and many others close to substantial implementation, the goal of comprehensive registration and notification is drawing closer.
Tribal Access Program Continues Deployments
For the third year in a row, the SMART Office continues to fund the Tribal Access Program and provide subject matter expertise on how TAP can complement or enhance a tribe’s sex offender registration program. By the end of September 2018, a total of 47 tribes will have direct access to federal databases through TAP. Participating tribes receive the necessary hardware and software and ongoing technical assistance for direct access to national crime information systems for both civil and criminal purposes, including the National Crime Information Center and the National Sex Offender Registry.
The Yavapai Apache Nation is the latest Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act tribe to receive a workstation. From June 26-28, members of the U.S. Department of Justice’s TAP team provided hands-on training to tribal personnel from several criminal justice agencies, including the tribal police, probation and child protective services. SMART Senior Policy Advisor Yahya Fouz attended the deployment and provided subject matter expertise on SORNA’s information sharing requirements.
During the roll-out, the Yavapai Apache Nation SORNA Officer Lucinda Morrow successfully collected fingerprints and palm prints from a registered sex offender and immediately submitted the prints to the FBI electronically using the TAP workstation. In addition, the SORNA officer entered the registered sex offender’s biographical information directly into NCIC/NSOR. This marked the first time this registered sex offender was entered into NSOR, which is significant given that his underlying conviction was for sexual assault of an 8-year-old child. The successful submission of this registered sex offender’s biometrics and biographical information into the requisite federal databases will ensure that if criminal justice personnel nationwide conduct a criminal history check on him, they will be alerted with a “flag” indicating that he is a registered sex offender.
The SMART Office plans to fund the Tribal Access Program at $2 million in fiscal year 2019 to ensure that even more tribes have direct access to NCIC/NSOR, and encourages tribes to apply for the new TAP phase, beginning in fall 2018.
SMART Hosts IML Regionals
In June and July 2018, the SMART Office hosted a series of four International Megan’s Law regional meetings in Detroit, Phoenix and Tampa, Florida, to discuss the international tracking of registered sex offenders. Altogether, more than 70 participants from 36 states, all five territories and 21 tribes attended.
The meetings provided jurisdictional representatives an overview of the resources available to track registered sex offenders traveling internationally and included the following sessions:
- SORNA’s provisions and an overview of foreign registry systems
- How the National Sex Offender Registry is involved in border screenings
- How to use INTERPOL’s Green Notice program
- How to investigate and prosecute child sex tourism cases
- What roles the U.S. Marshals Service and Angel Watch Center play
Representatives from the SMART Office, FBI, INTERPOL-Washington, U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Attorney’s Office, Angel Watch Center and the State Department presented sessions. In addition, presenters facilitated discussions among attendees about how they were implementing (or plan to implement) SORNA’s requirement for offenders to provide 21 days’ advance notice of international travel.
For more information about SORNA’s international tracking requirements, visit the SMART Office’s International Tracking of Sex Offenders webpage.
Grant Extensions + Equivalent Offenses
Q. How have project extensions been impacted by the release of Part 200 Uniform Requirements?
A. For years, the general administrative requirements, cost principles and audit requirements for most OJP grants were set by Department of Justice regulations (28 Code of Federal Regulations Parts 66 and 70 for administrative requirements) and certain Office of Management and Budget circulars (for cost principles and audit requirements).
But in 2014, the 2 C.F.R. Part 200 Uniform Requirements largely replaced the 28 C.F.R. Parts 66 and 70 and the OMB circulars.
Generally speaking, OJP awards made before January 2015 are not altered or affected by Part 200 requirements. For awards made prior to January 2015, OJP recipients (and subrecipients) should continue to consult the OJP Financial Guide. For OJP awards made in 2015 and later, consult the DOJ Grants Financial Guide.
Do the Part 200 Uniform Requirements apply to all active OJP grants and cooperative agreements?
No. Part 200 applicability depends on —
- when the award was made and accepted,
- the type of entity that received the award and
- the specific terms and conditions of the award (including any supplements).
Part 200 requirements have little effect on active grants and cooperative agreements that OJP awarded prior to 2015, other than certain awards that received supplemental funds from OJP (under the same award number) in 2015 or subsequent years.
Also, even for OJP awards made in 2015 or subsequent years, Part 200 requirements extend only to awards to certain types of entities: typically states and local governments, federally recognized Indian tribes, public or nonprofit higher education institutions and nonprofit organizations.
For other types of OJP recipients (for example, for-profit organizations), Part 200 requirements typically apply to the extent that the conditions of the OJP award (including any condition that incorporates the DOJ Grants Financial Guide) provide that all or part of the Part 200 requirements apply.
How have the Part 200 Uniform requirements impacted project extensions?
For awards made in 2015 and in subsequent years, however, the following rules apply:
- The maximum extension allowable for any project period is generally 12 months.
- Requests for a no-cost extension of an award period must be made by submitting a grant adjustment notice in the Grants Management System any time after accepting the award and at least 30 days before the award ends.
- Generally, requests for retroactive extension of project periods will not be considered.
- Generally, only one extension per award is permitted.
- A request to extend the obligation period of a program or set of programs beyond 12 months must be justified by extraordinary circumstances outside of the control of the recipient and subrecipient, and be documented in the award record.
- The awarding agency has the discretion to approve extension requests.
For more information on how these regulations impact your specific award, contact your SMART grant manager.
Q. How do I determine whether the offense is equivalent to one of our jurisdiction’s registerable offenses? There’s an offender who was convicted in another jurisdiction who has reported to our jurisdiction for registration. He was convicted 20 years ago, and the statute of conviction (in the jurisdiction where he was convicted) is no longer in the jurisdiction’s criminal code. Our jurisdiction’s registration statutes require us to register all sex offenses from other jurisdictions that are equivalent to one of our jurisdiction’s registerable offenses.
A. Historical versions of statutes are available to Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) jurisdictions for federal, military and state statutes. SMART senior policy advisors can help you locate the “current as of” statute by jurisdiction and code section or heading to help you find the statute text that was in place when the offender was convicted.
Please note that for more recent versions of the statutes, you’ll need to contact the relevant jurisdiction. If you need assistance contacting the relevant jurisdiction, please contact the SMART Office at 202-514-4689 or [email protected], or contact the SMART senior policy advisor for your jurisdiction.
Case Spotlight: International Travel Notification
In 2011, the Supplemental Guidelines for Sex Offender Registration and Notification officially included in SORNA’s standards the obligation that jurisdictions require their registered sex offenders to provide 21 days’ notice of any international travel. However, before International Megan’s Law passed, it was difficult to federally prosecute sex offenders for failing to notify registration officials of intended international travel or relocation. For example, in Nichols v. United States, 136 S. Ct. 1113 (2016), the Supreme Court held that a sex offender could not be federally prosecuted for failure to register under 18 U.S.C. § 2250 (as it stood in 2012) if they simply moved to a foreign country without notifying the state where they had been registered prior to moving.
Because of this loophole, International Megan’s Law specifically amended 18 U.S.C. § 2250(b) to criminalize the failure of an offender to provide notice of intended international travel. An early successful prosecution under this new provision happened in the Northern District of Alabama in 2017. Alabama substantially implemented SORNA in 2011, including international travel notification requirements. For jurisdictions that have not implemented the 2011 international travel notification requirement, this could impact your ability to prosecute under this offense.
In 1991, Robin McSherdon was convicted in Alabama of sexual abuse in the first degree; his victim was 4 years old and he was classified as a tier III sex offender and required to register for life. In 2016, McSherdon was advised on numerous occasions of his responsibility to provide 21 days’ advance notice of any international travel.
Without providing this required notice, McSherdon purchased a one-way airline ticket to fly from Birmingham, Alabama, to Manila, Philippines, and was scheduled to depart on Feb. 1, 2017. On that date, he arrived at the Birmingham airport and attempted to check in to his flight, but was denied access because he had neither a roundtrip ticket nor an appropriate visa. McSherdon was arrested later that day at home and admitted he intended to fly to the Philippines and return prior to his next scheduled registration check-in date.
McSherdon was successfully prosecuted under the International Megan’s Law amendments to 18 U.S.C. § 2250(b), pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 27 months’ imprisonment.