TULSA — The U.S. Department of Justice recently announced a new tool giving tribal governments the ability to directly input data and gain access to the FBI’s National Sex Offender Registry (NSOR) using the Tribe and Territory Sex Offender Registry System (TTSORS). U.S. Attorney Trent Shores of the Northern District of Oklahoma applauded the decision, which provides a critical tool to combat sexual violence in Indian country. The system connection will be available to all tribal governments already participating in the Tribal Access Program (TAP), which allows information sharing between tribal and federal government criminal information systems.
TTSORS is a no-cost registry system provided by the Justice Department’s Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking (SMART). The department’s Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) developed the connections which allows tribes to seamlessly submit new and updated sex offender information directly from TTSORS to NSOR.
“The Department of Justice is dedicated to addressing the public safety crisis in American Indian and Alaska Native communities, including the high rates of sexual violence against women and children,” said Attorney General William P. Barr. “Providing a direct connection to the FBI National Sex Offender Registry gives tribal law enforcement the information they need to investigate and prevent these heinous offenses.”
U.S. Attorney Trent Shores, Chair of the Attorney General’s Advisory Subcommittee on Native American Issues (NAIS) and citizen of the Choctaw Nation stated, “Access to information, especially sex offender registries, is essential to keeping tribal communities safe. Indian country is not a safe haven of anonymity for sex offenders. Tribal governments - like their state and local counterparts - should know when sex offenders have moved into their community. I applaud Attorney General Barr’s continued focus on improving public safety in Indian country.”
American Indian and Alaska Native people suffer persistently high rates of victimization, including from sexual assault. According to a 2016 study funded by the National Institute of Justice, more than four in five American Indian and Alaska Native adults have experienced some form of violence in their lifetime, and more than half of all American Indian and Alaska Native women have experienced violence from an intimate partner. In June, the department extended a deadline for tribes to apply for up to $167 million in federal funds through August 16, 2019, to support crime victims throughout Indian country.
“The direct connection between the National Sex Offender Registry and Tribe and Territory Sex Offender Registry System provides increased resources for identifying, tracking, and sharing information about persons convicted of committing these crimes,” said Gwendena L. Gatewood, Chairwoman of the White Mountain Apache Tribe of the Fort Apache Indian Reservation. “It will also allow for further improvements in providing a safer community for all involved to integrate tribal law, custom, tradition and practices in a comprehensive fashion consistent with holding offenders accountable.”
“Standing Rock has always had a priority of ensuring public safety,” said Mike Faith, Chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. “Technological advances to our systems ensure that our SORNA staff are able to input offender information and get back in the field while ensuring compliance is maintained.”
The Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, Title I of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006, requires that, when an offender initially registers or updates his or her information in a jurisdiction, that the state, tribe, territory or District of Columbia must submit immediately the information to NSOR as well as other jurisdictions where the offender has to register. TTSORS is a fully functioning registry system that complies with SORNA requirements. TTSORS was created to assist the Indian tribes that have elected to implement SORNA.
Since 2015, the SMART Office, OCIO, the FBI, the Office of Tribal Justice, Community Oriented Policing Services and the Office for Victims of Crime, have worked together to develop the Tribal Access Program to provide tribes direct access to national crime information systems for both criminal and non-criminal justice purposes. This includes the ability to directly enter NSOR data and enhance the capacity to collect and submit fingerprints and palm prints to the FBI. TAP has been instrumental in assisting tribes with ongoing implementation of SORNA. In fiscal year 2019, the department expanded TAP to 25 more tribes, for a total of 72 participating tribes.