New Jersey is one of 19 states that are not in compliance with a federal act meant to streamline sex offender laws.
In 2006, Congress passed the Sex Offender Registration & Notification Act (SORNA) to strengthen and standardize requirements for sex offender registration. Congress imposed a deadline of July, 2011 for states to adopt and implement the requirements of the act. Several states however, including New Jersey, failed to meet that deadline, according to a report last week from the U.S. Government Accountability Office.
According to the report, only 19 of 56 jurisdictions (50 states, 5 territories and the District of Columbia) have "substantially implemented" the act. Only 18 jurisdictions have implemented at least half of the requirements. Finally, 19 jurisdictions, including New Jersey, have implemented few or none of the requirements.
NJ State Senator Joe Vitale says as long as he’s chair of the state’s Health and Human Services Committee, New Jersey will never adopt SORNA. Vitale claims the state already has tougher requirements than the federal law, including door to door notification when a tier-three offender moves into a neighborhood.
“The process that currently exists in New Jersey actually works,” said Vitale. “We assess offenders before they leave to determine what their likelihood is of reoffending. That would no longer happen under SORNA.”
The penalty for not implementing SORNA is a 10 percent reduction in Justice Assistant Grant (JAG) funds, which can be spent on a variety of local programs. If New Jersey doesn’t come into compliance with SORNA however, it will lose between $700,000 and $800,000 in federal funding. Vitale says that’s a price worth paying if it means keeping a system that keeps families safe.