Communities want to know when convicted sex offenders are living in their midst. For a quarter century, federal law has guaranteed communities the right to know. In 1994, Congress mandated that all states develop sex offender registries. Two years later, Megan’s Law provided that sex offender information must be made public.
In the ensuing decade, sex offender laws and registries sprang up in all states — but not always with the full impact intended. In some instances, technology deficits limited information sharing across registries and jurisdictions, a synergy vital to tracking mobile offenders. Resource shortfalls strained states’ abilities to keep up with the growing volume of offenders required to register their presence, and with new types of identifying data for offenders. Jurisdictional inconsistency left a patchwork of programs, evidencing a need for national norms.
In the end, the researchers reported many states have run into barriers preventing them from substantially implementing all SORNA standards, due to resource constraints, incompatible state or local laws, a lack of requisite legislative will, or a combination of factors.