Sex Offender Registration in Indian Country
National Congress of American Indians
Kevin K. Washburn
University of New Mexico - School of Law
Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law, Forthcoming
Arizona Legal Studies Discussion Paper No. 08-21
Congress was first confronted with the issue of sex offender registration following an incident at a BIA Indian school on the Hopi reservation after a BIA school teacher was convicted of molesting 142 Indian boys during a six-year period in the 1980s. The case, which resulted in a criminal conviction and a $50 million civil settlement, left a scar on the national consciousness. Despite this history, Congress all but ignored the needs of Indian victims and Indian tribes when it enacted the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act as part of the Adam Walsh Act, mandating sex offender registration nationally. This essay criticizes this legislation and the undeliberative and unconsultative process that produced it. It concludes that the legislation might have been far more effective in dealing with sex crimes victimization on Indian reservations if Congress had embraced tribes as equal partners with states in implementing the law's provisions. In the end, the law is likely to help least the very people who suffer from sex crimes the most. This tragedy could have been averted with a more thoughtful approach and greater recognition of the nuances of jurisdiction and insititutional capacity in Indian country.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 32
Keywords: sex offender, sex offender registration, Indian country, reservations, Indian tribes
Date posted: August 22, 2008 ; Last revised: July 6, 2010
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