Information Sharing and Its Effects on Tracking Sex Offenders and Community Awareness
Contracting Agency: UMASS Lowell/National Institute of Justice

Since the 1990s, sex offender registration and notification (SORN) systems have assumed an increasingly prominent place in U.S. sex offender management policy and practice. All U.S. states and territories operate public internet sex offender registries, and a sequence of federal laws since 1994 has reflected increased Congressional interest in improving the functionality, utility, consistency, and integration of the nation’s SORN systems. Such efforts have accelerated following the passage of the 2006 Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), which set forth a series of standards for these systems’ structure and operation.

In the years since SORNA’s passage, research studies have evaluated such factors as impacts on sex crime rates, sex offender recidivism, and deterrence; collateral impacts on offenders and their families; citizen registry use; and legislator attitudes. Yet examinations of SORN system information-sharing capacity, and the effects of SORNA implementation on that capacity, have been virtually non-existent. Very little is known about how SORN systems function as information-sharing tools, how registry information may be translated into the realm of public safety, and how such information is consumed, perceived, and utilized by criminal justice agencies and the general public.

This 3-year mixed-method study, to be conducted by the University of Massachusetts Lowell (UMASS Lowell) with funding support from the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) and assistance from partner organizations such as the American Probation and Parole Association (APPA), represents the first comprehensive national assessment of the information sharing functions of sex offender registration and notification systems. Project elements include development of a multi-dimensional inventory of the organizational and operational characteristics of SORN systems in all 50 states; focus groups, interviews and national surveys of law enforcement and probation and parole professionals; national and state-based community surveys evaluating the perspectives and experiences of the general public; comparative assessments of the information sharing experiences between states with varying levels of SORNA implementation; development of a comprehensive cost analysis framework for evaluating SORN-related cost drivers; interoperability assessments to identify models of system integration and efficiencies and areas of opportunity; and a series of case studies highlighting models and best practices for enhancing information sharing and improving SORN system efficiency.

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