Cost-Benefit Analyses of SORNA Implementation

NCSL Report
January 2010

Currently, one state (Ohio) is in compliance with the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), the Title I portion of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006. The Department of Justice announced Ohio’s compliance in September 2009; the remaining states have until July 27, 2010 to substantially implement SORNA to be in compliance, although a request for a one-year extension may be submitted. Failure to substantially implement SORNA will result in a 10 percent reduction in a state’s allotted Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) funding. In 2006, it was determined to be more costly – in every state – to implement SORNA than to lose 10 percent of JAG funding. Since then, states have seen Byrne/JAG funds rebound; be substantially cut for FY 2008; and most recently be partially restored and reauthorized. These fluctuations in funding have made difficult state analyses of what a 10 percent loss of justice assistance grants means in dollars. And, of course, states approach cost issues associated with SORNA implementation during a time of deep recession and overall revenue and spending reductions.

State Cost-Benefit Analyses
Some states have created working groups or committees to weigh the various policy considerations in deciding whether to implement SORNA. Most working groups are focused on the fiscal costs and benefits of implementation to determine whether implementation is favorable. In an April 2009 National Consortium for Justice Information and Statistics survey on State Compliance with the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, eight states (California, Florida, Iowa, Maine, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, and West Virginia) responded that they were concerned with implementation costs or restricted by their state budget. The following states are those that have provided public information on their fiscal concerns.

The State of California Sex Offender Management Board issued a Statement of Position on the Adam Walsh Act.  The Sex Offender Management Board cites an initial assessment by the Attorney General’s Office that the 10% non-compliance penalty is far less than the Adam Walsh Act implementation costs.

In September 2008, the Colorado Sex Offender Management Board issued a White Paper on the Adam Walsh Child Protection & Safety Act of 2006.  The Sex Offender Management Board submitted this White Paper to the Multi-Agency Implementation Committee for consideration in their final conclusion and recommendations regarding SORNA implementation. This White Paper concludes that the Adam Walsh Act should not be implemented in Colorado and that implementation costs are far greater than the 10% non-compliance penalty.

In October 2008, Florida issued the Fiscal, Policy, and Legal Considerations regarding State Compliance with the Adam Walsh Act.

In January 2008, Virginia issued the Fiscal Impact Statement for Proposed Legislation Senate Bill No. 590 (January 2008)
Summary of the estimated fiscal impact of proposed Senate Bill No. 590, which expands the categories of offenses for which registration is required. This bill was signed into law on April 23, 2008.

NCSL's Criminal Justice Program is in Denver, Colorado, at 303-364-7700 or

Posted January 7, 2010