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Sex Offender Registration in Indian Country

22 Pages Posted: 22 Aug 2008 Last revised: 24 Oct 2017

Virginia Davis

National Congress of American Indians

Kevin K. Washburn

University of New Mexico - School of Law

Date Written: 2008


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.

Keywords: sex offender, sex offender registration, Indian country, reservations, Indian tribes

Suggested Citation

Davis, Virginia and Washburn, Kevin K., Sex Offender Registration in Indian Country (2008). Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law, 2008; Arizona Legal Studies Discussion Paper No. 08-21. Available at SSRN:

Virginia Davis

National Congress of American Indians ( email )

United States

Kevin K. Washburn (Contact Author)

University of New Mexico - School of Law ( email )

1117 Stanford, N.E.
MSC11 6060 * 1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, NM 87131-0001
United States
505.277.3304 (Phone)

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