February 14, 2012
North Carolina is the latest state to take a stand against the Adam Walsh Act and its key provision, the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA). States like New York have already refused to comply, because SORNA’s requirements directly contradict their policy of treating youth offenders differently from adult offenders.
North Carolina, like Nebraska, is balking because the federal assistance it would lose for failing to comply with SORNA is dwarfed by the cost. Using 2009 figures as an example, the Justice Policy Institute recently estimated that North Carolina would have lost just under $900,000 of its federal Byrne Justice Assistance Grant for taking a pass on SORNA -- but implementing it would cost the state $14.7 million.
The cost of compliance is just one of the many concerns surfacing as the federal government pushes to get states on board with SORNA requirements. For example, the constitutionality of at least one of its provisions has been successfully challenged in court; and some law enforcement personnel are concerned that they will be swamped by a requirement that they regularly meet in person with all registered sex offenders, regardless of risk.
Furthermore, evidence suggests that registries have done little to increase public safety; in fact, a 2009 study found that offenders classified under SORNA as least likely to recidivate are the most likely to be re-arrested. The 2009 study, which appeared in the Criminal Justice Policy Review, concluded that registries like SORNA lull the public into a false sense of security, and are “almost completely ineffective at categorizing sex offenders based on risk of sexual recidivism.”1
RELATED: Download the executive summary of a 2011 National Snapshot of Juvenile Sex Offender Registries and Websites.
1 Freeman, N. & Sandler, J. (2009), 45. The Adam Walsh Act: A false sense of security or an effective public policy initiative?, Criminal Justice Policy Review.