SORNA: The Sexual Offender Registration and Notification Act

The Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) mandated a national registry of people convicted of sex offenses and expands the type of offenses for which a person must register, applying to both adults and children. By July 2009, the Federal government stated that all states must comply with SORNA or risk losing 10 percent of the state’s allocated Federal grant money, which states generally use to enforce drug laws and support law enforcement. (Virginia has not yet implemented SORNA). In the last few years, many states have extensively analyzed the financial costs of complying with SORNA. These states found that implementing SORNA in their state is far more costly than the penalties for not being in compliance. An analysis finds that in all 50 states, the first-year costs of implementing SORNA outweighed the cost of losing the state’s loss of federal grants. Most of the resources available to states would be devoted to the administrative maintenance of the registry and notification, rather than targeting known serious offenders. Registries and notification have not been proven to protect communities from sexual offenses, and may even distract from more effective approaches (and in fact, most of the time, there is no distinction between the types of sexual offenders). Given the enormous fiscal costs of implementing SORNA (especially in this economic climate), coupled with the lack of evidence that registries and notification make communities safer, states should think carefully before committing to comply with SORNA.