Public policies requiring individuals convicted of sex offenses to register with law enforcement authorities, and in some cases granting public access to certain registry information, have been adopted by dozens of nations and provincial governments across the globe. Within the United States, sex offender registration and notification (SORN) policies are primarily established at the state level, but have come under increasing federal purview since the 1990s. Arising from a perceived need for improved interjurisdictional consistency and coordination, the 2006 Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) significantly broadened the scope and range of federal requirements for SORN systems operating within the states. Yet fourteen years following the law’s passage, a significant majority of states have yet to meet SORNA implementation thresholds, amidst an array of legal, political, fiscal, and practical challenges. Prior research has offered aggregate-level insights concerning the barriers to SORNA implementation, but has not captured the “back stories” of state policy experiences. Addressing this knowledge gap, the current study offers an in-depth examination of state experiences in aligning their policies with federal mandates. Drawing on data gathered from a diverse sample of ten states, the analysis reveals significant variation in the breadth and extent of required system changes and in the legal, political, and organizational dynamics surrounding state responses to federal oversight. Ultimately, the study offers insights and perspectives that can inform the continued refinement of federal and state policies, and improve the public safety effectiveness of the nation’s SORN systems.

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