Review of the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act
Evaluation and Inspections Report I-2009-001
Office of the Inspector General
U. S. Department of Justice
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Clarksburg, WV 26306
November 21, 2008
Mr. Michael D. Gulledge
Acting Assistant Inspector General
for Evaluations and Inspections
United States Department of Justice
1425 New York Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530
RE: THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE'S IMPLEMENTATION OF THE SEX OFFENDER REGISTRATION AND NOTIFICATION ACT
Dear Mr. Gulledge:
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) appreciates the opportunity to review and respond to your report entitled, "Review of the Department of Justice's Implementation of the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act" (hereinafter, "Report").
The Report documents the status of the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) implementation by the Department of Justice (Department). The national sex offender registration system is composed of two registries operated by different Department components: first, the FBI's National Sex Offender Registry (NSOR); and second, the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Registry Website (NSOPR). As your report confirms, the FBI has met its requirement under SORNA to provide electronic updates to state sex offender registration authorities when records change in the NSOR. The FBI has also met its SORNA requirement to allow access to national crime information databases for personnel at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and social services agencies.
Based on a review of the Report, the FBI concurs with all three recommendations. To date, the FBI has implemented measures to resolve all of the identified issues. The FBI's NSOR, as part of the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), operates under a shared-management concept between the FBI and local, state, tribal and federal criminal justice agencies. The FBI maintains a host computer and provides a telecommunications network to each of the 50 states, territories, the District of Columbia, Canada, as well as various federal agencies. The information these entities provide is maintained by the FBI's host computer. As found in your Report, the responsibility to populate the NSOR lies within the states and territories. As further found in your Report, the states have not entered approximately 22 percent of records on registered sex offenders into the NSOR. The completeness of the data within the NSOR relies upon those required to enter the data, first and foremost, the states. The FBI remains committed to its role in the full implementation of the SORNA.
In conclusion, the FBI appreciates the professionalism exhibited by your staff in working with our representatives throughout this audit process. Enclosed herein is the FBI's response to the report. Please feel free to contact me should you have any questions.
Thomas E. Bush, III
Criminal Justice Information
RE: THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE'S IMPLEMENTATION OF THE SEX OFFENDER
REGISTRATION AND NOTIFICATION ACT
Recommendation 1: The FBI should ensure NSOR has more complete and accurate information by designing and implementing a new audit of jurisdiction registries' compliance with FBI NSOR procedures and with the SORNA guidelines.
FBI Response: RESOLVED -The FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division is scheduled to re-implement the sex offender audit in October 2009. It should be noted that all NCIC audit findings are reported through the CJIS Advisory Process for review and possible sanctions.
The Report refers to a pilot audit conducted by the CJIS Division on the state registries and information provided by those state registries into the NSOR. As a matter of procedure, the CJIS Division establishes audit processes to ensure the accuracy, completeness, and validity of records with newly deployed NCIC files once national participation has been achieved. Therefore in October 2003, the CJIS Division developed and deployed a three-year pilot sex offender audit for informational purposes only not to be subject to the CJIS Advisory Policy Board's (APB's) Sanctions Process. The three-year pilot encompassed one complete NCIC audit cycle, which enabled the FBI to evaluate compliance with the policies and procedures, as they relate to the NCIC NSOR, by all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and United States territories with direct access to the NCIC.
Through the pilot audit, it was determined that states had difficulty in complying with the NSOR's validation requirements, which is a process used to confirm that each record is complete, accurate, and active. In addition, several other data quality issues were identified. Upon review of the initial audit findings, the CJIS Division, in consultation with the APB, began forwarding compliance issues to the Convicted Sexual Offender Registry File (CSORF) Task Force in March 2005 to consider substantial changes to existing NSOR policies. The changes recommended by the task force would ultimately impact the audit process due to the consequential revision of policies.
Concurrently, on July 27, 2006, the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of2006 (the Adam Walsh Act) was signed into law and repealed all previous sex offender legislative requirements. States, territories, and tribal jurisdictions were given three years after the enactment date of the Adam Walsh Act to comply with SORNA, with two possible one-year extensions. The CJIS Division determined that, following the completion of the three-year pilot, it would be beneficial to suspend the audit for at least three years (one NCIC audit cycle) to allow time for states, territories, and tribal jurisdictions to implement changes based on legislation and for the Task Force to resolve any remaining policy issues. Therefore, the CJIS Division suspended the pilot audit in September 2006, although guidance and training on NSOR continue.
On July 1, 2008, the Department published the final guidelines for the SORNA, which is contained within the Adam Walsh Act, for states, territories, and tribal jurisdictions to use in their implementation of the SORNA requirements. The Department guidelines are crucial for resolving the Task Force's issues. The CJIS Division is planning to re-implement the sex offender audit upon resolution of the Task Force's issues and implementation of identified changes and enhancements. The projected date for re-implementation of the sex offender audit is October 2009.
Recommendation 2: The FBI should implement the Advisory Policy Board-approved changes to NSOR that specifically provide information regarding fugitive status.
FBI Response: RESOLVED -The APB, during its December 2006 meeting, recommended an enhancement to the NCIC regarding the creation of a new sex offender status field within the NSOR as an optional field which states/territories could migrate to using as resources permit. This enhancement was approved by the FBI Director in May 2007. The sex offender status field is included on the NCIC enhancement list and is scheduled to be implemented August 2009.
This enhancement to the NSOR will facilitate a better method to indicate a sex offender's registration or fugitive status by states/territories. Currently, states/territories are encouraged to enter appropriate comments in the Miscellaneous (MIS) Field for offenders who have failed to register or are noncompliant. States and territories are also encouraged to seek warrants for these individuals and make corresponding entries in the NCIC Wanted Persons File. The MIS Field supports the inclusion of narrative information that is not captured in a designated field. In addition to the offender's status, the MIS Field includes information such as description of tattoos, statute for offender's conviction, and details regarding caution statements.
As a result of a recommendation presented during the Spring 2003 APB Working Groups and Subcommittee meetings, the CSORF Validation Task Force was formed to review validation issues and return with a recommendation on what should be done concerning CSORF validation. The initial role of the task force was substantially broadened and identified the need to capture the sex offender registration status in a designated field. The task force reported to the APB's NCIC Subcommittee in October 2006 and recommended the creation of a new sex offender status field as an optional field which states/territories could migrate to as resources permit. The enhancement was recommended by the APB during its December 2006 meeting and was approved by the FBI Director in May 2007. The sex offender status field is currently scheduled to be implemented in August 2009.
The addition of a new field will change the mechanism by which states/territories include noncompliant status information in an NSOR record and how the information is provided in a response. However, it will be incumbent upon the entering agency to include the status information. As previously outlined, the states/territories are solely responsible for maintaining accurate information in the NSOR.
Recommendation 3: The USMS should obtain NSOR and the NCIC Wanted Persons File Data downloads from the FBI and use that information to manage and conduct fugitive sex offender investigations.
FBI Response: RESOLVED -The FBI has received a letter from the USMS dated November 3, 2008, requesting such a data download. The CJIS Division is currently in the process of responding to the USMS's data request. The CJIS Division will provide the USMS with data downloads of the NCIC Wanted Person File upon request from the USMS.
The Report in multiple instances states that the NCIC contains information including criminal record histories. For clarification, the NCIC is a database containing criminal justice data such as warrants and protection orders, while the Interstate Identification Index is the system that contains more comprehensive criminal history record information.
The FBI recognizes that a percentage of sex offender records have not been entered into the NSOR by states and territories, but believes the records that are in the NSOR provide a valuable tool to law enforcement. The FBI also recognizes gains in record entry by states and territories into the NSOR. Beginning with fiscal year (FY) 2005, the total number of records in the NSOR has steadily increased from 405,192 in FY2005, to 448,650 in FY2006, to 494,426 in FY2007, culminating with 552,112 in FY2008.
In conclusion, states and territories are required under the Adam Walsh Act to enter information into the NSOR for any person required to register in a jurisdiction's sex offender registry. While the FBI maintains the NSOR and provides the avenue for entry of sex offender data as mandated by the Adam Walsh Act, the information contained within the NSOR is submitted by states and territories and the inclusion, accuracy, and integrity of the data is ultimately the responsibility of those states and territories.
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