Title I of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006, the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), requires a conviction-based structure for sex offenders’ registration and notification requirements. SORNA does not address the use of risk assessment tools for registration or notification purposes. Many jurisdictions currently use risk assessment processes for a variety of purposes. These include aiding in making release decisions, filing civil commitment proceedings, structuring treatment programming and establishing supervision intensity. Additionally, many states use a risk assessment process to determine the level and method of community notification for registered sex offenders.
SORNA does not preclude the use of risk assessment tools for community notification purposes, particularly for the more active methods of notification (e.g., community meetings, flyers, door-to-door canvassing). However, to substantially implement SORNA, some jurisdictions that currently use risk assessment to determine community notification levels and methods might need to include a broader class of sex offenders on their public registry websites. In all instances, jurisdictions may use risk assessment tools as a justification for increasing SORNA’s minimum notification requirements.
Jurisdictions that use a risk assessment process to determine sex offenders’ duration, reporting frequency and/or relief from registration requirements will need to modify their systems to match SORNA’s tier requirements, which depend on the crime of conviction. Jurisdictions may use risk assessment to increase these requirements as they see fit. The SMART Office encourages jurisdictions that use an assessment process for community notification purposes to do so without substantially undermining the purposes of SORNA’s conviction-based tiering or other requirements.
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