A | B | C | D | E | F | H | I | J | K | L | M | P | R | S | T | W

Have a specific word or phrase in mind? Open a browser search by pressing the Ctrl (Windows users) or Cmd (Mac users) key at the same time as the F key on your keyboard and enter the search term. Alternatively, click the corresponding letter above if you know the beginning of the word or phrase.

Don't see a term that should be here? Have a question about a definition? Drop us a line!


actuarial risk assessments

statistical method to evaluate an individual’s static and dynamic risk factors and categorize them based on their likelihood of sexually re-offending; an individual scoring positively on a lot of items would score into a high-risk category, those scoring on some items in a medium-risk category, and individuals scoring on a few in the low-risk category (see Dynamic Risk Factors, Static-99, and Static Risk Factors)

adam walsh act (awa)

a federal act passed to establish uniform and comprehensive SORN requirements (For more information, see the Federal SORN Policies Fact Sheet)

adjudicated delinquent

a juvenile found, by a juvenile court judge, to have committed a delinquent offense; the AWA requires juvenile registration only if the juvenile is at least 14-years-old and convicted of a serious sex offense


process by which all the available evidence in a legal proceeding or case is reviewed and decided upon, often by a judge

age of consent (aoc)

minimum age at which a person is considered legally competent to engage in consensual sexual activity; engaging in sexual activity with a person below the minimum age is illegal, states decide at what age to set consent but it ranges from 16-18 years of age (see Romeo and Juliet Statutes)

alternatives to incarceration (ati)

any supervised release or treatment options, other than incarceration, a person can be sentenced to for their offense; ATI’s can repair harms suffered by victims, treat and/or rehabilitate the offender, prevent additional crimes, and reduce incarceration costs, among other benefits

"amendable to treatment"

a therapeutic and legal assessment of a registrant’s potential responsiveness to rehabilitation

awa compliant

any jurisdiction implementing a majority of the Adam Walsh Act’s basic mandates; the SMART Office provides a checklist for jurisdictions to aid them in seeking compliance


buffer zones

any legislatively designated area of land containing places children regularly congregate where it is illegal for registrants to reside in or loiter within a specified distance; places may include parks, schools, daycare centers, churches etc.; AKA child safety zones (see Residency Restrictions)

bryne memorial justice assistance grant (byrne jag) Program

memorial federal justice program to aid state and local governments in strengthening and improving the operation of law enforcement functions in the states; states failing to comply with the AWA receive a 10% mandatory reduction of the Byrne Jag


campus sex crimes prevention act

federal act enacted requiring registrants to provide information about any institution of higher learning they attended or were employed by to law enforcement authorities and for campuses to publicize registrant information to the campus community (For more information, see the Federal SORN Policies Fact Sheet)

circles of support and accountability (cosa)

program with a restorative justice approach to assist post-incarceration registrants as they reintegrate with their communities

civil commitment

controversial legal mechanism allowing for the indefinite detention of an individual in a secure treatment facility following incarceration due to a court’s assessment that this individual is highly likely to commit additional sex offenses if released back into their community

collateral consequences of sorn

unintended legal restrictions and social stigmas resulting from the obligation to register as a sex offender, i.e. difficulty locating and maintaining housing and employment

criminal legal system

shorthand term borrowed from Queer (In)Justice for the varying processes and law enforcement agencies responsible for creating and upholding our legal system; tacit acknowledgement that this system has not produced justice for a vast majority of American citizens


delinquent offense

any act committed by a juvenile that would be considered a crime if committed by an adult

dru sjodin national sex offender public website (nsopw)

website linking state, territorial, and tribal sex offender registries to provide public searchable information; formerly the National Sex Offender Public Registry (NSOPR)

dynamic risk factors

risk factors which increases the risk of re-offense but may change over time, i.e. substance abuse, low educational attainment, unemployment, negative interpersonal relationships, etc. (see Static Risk Factors)



paraphilic disorder involving fixated sexual interest by an adult with mid- to late adolescents; often confused with hebephilia and pedophilia

evidence-based research

refers to the practice of using measurable statistical information to inform policy decisions, i.e. what does and does not work; contrasted with policy decisions based on emotion, bias, prejudice, and opinion

ex-post facto argument

legal argument affirming SORN legislation is a regulatory mechanism to identify previous offenders for the express purpose of public safety and isn’t an additional punishment to a registrant’s sentence; therefore, it does not violate Article I of the U.S. Constitution


failure to register

broad criminal penalty for registrants who fail to register as a sex offender or update their identifying information as required by law


most serious type of criminal offense, which carries a minimum potential sentence of 1 year and a maximum of either life imprisonment or death; states have the discretion to subdivide felonies by class or degree (see Misdemeanor)

florida justice transitions

Florida organization for registrants providing affordable housing, general support and transitional assistance programs; subject of the documentary film Pervert Park



paraphilic disorder involving fixated interest in sexual activity by an adult with a pubescent child; often confused with ephebophilia and pedophilia


international megan's law (iml)

federal law enacted in 2016 requiring foreign governments to be notified of American registrants traveling abroad; includes a provision requiring the placement of a “unique identifier” on the passports of registrants convicted of crimes against minors (For more information, see the Federal SORN Policies Fact Sheet)



locally operated short-term facilities designed to hold inmates awaiting trial and/or sentencing or inmates sentenced to a term of less than one year; definition varies by state (see Prisons)

jessica's law

Florida act enacted in 2005 mandating a minimum sentence of 25 years’ incarceration for first-time child sex offenses and authorizing the use of GPS or other electronic devices to track registrants post- incarceration; may refer to similar acts enacted in other states (For more information, see the forthcoming State SORN Policies Fact Sheet)


kids act

federal act enacted in 2008 requiring registrants to provide email addresses, screennames, and other Internet aliases to law enforcement authorities (For more information, see the Federal SORN Policies Fact Sheet)


law enforcement officer (leo)

any person who is sworn in as a federal agent, state trooper, deputy, or police officer to enforce the laws of the jurisdiction they serve


megan's law

may refer to the 1996 federal law amending the Wetterling Act to include community notification (For more information, see the Federal SORN Policies Fact Sheet); may refer to the 1994 New Jersey law requiring both sex offender registration and notification, which other states have enacted similar versions (For more information, see the forthcoming State SORN Policies Fact Sheet)

memorialization laws

collective term used for laws named in memory of the victims of crimes, i.e. the Wetterling Act, Megan’s Law, and the AWA, amongst others

miracle village

a community of registrants located outside Pahokee, Florida formed as a consequence of Florida’s strict residency restrictions; subject of the documentary entitled Banished and a collection of photographs by Sofia Valiente


a type of criminal offense carrying a maximum sentence of up to a year in jail in most states; punishment can also include fines, probation, restitution, and community service; states have the discretion to subdivide misdemeanors by class or degree (see Felony)


pam lychner act

federal act enacted to establish a national database for the tracking and monitoring of sex offenders (For more information, see the Federal SORN Policies Fact Sheet)


psychological term for sexual interest in societally atypical objects, situations, or individuals, i.e. troilism, sexual sadism and masochism, and exhibitionism

paraphilic disorder

psychological disorder characterized by an individual’s mental distress over their paraphilia and the presence of a serious threat to the psychological and physical well-being of other individuals (See Ephebophilia, Hebephilia, and Pedophilia)


an ATI where a returning citizen is granted supervised release from incarceration prior to the completion of their sentence, if a returning citizen fails to adhere to the terms of parole they’re usually incarcerated for the remainder of their original sentence; federal parole was abolished in 1987


paraphilic disorder involving fixated sexual interest by an adult with a prepubescent child; maligned misnomer for registrants as only a small number of individuals are diagnosed with this disorder; often confused with hebephilia and ephebophilia

penile plethysmograph

extraordinarily invasive device used to measure blood flow to the penis, either through changes in the volume or circumference, as subject’s view sexually explicit content tailored to their problems or fetishes, which may include child pornography and depictions of rape; often a condition for supervised release


derogatory slang term for a registrant

polygraph test

physiological test designed to monitor and assess whether a registrant is compliant with the rules and regulations of supervised release, assumes stress can be accurately quantified via mechanistic means; frequently referred to by the misnomer “lie detector” test (read blog post entitled I Must Not Tell Lies)

predator panic

term coined to describe America’s obsession with the fear of registrants and perpetuated by the myths of registrants and sexual offending; A.K.A. sex panic or moral panic (read book entitled Sex Panic and the Punitive State)


legal definition for a criminal act resulting from the establishment of a relationship for the primary purpose of victimization


state or federally run longer-term facilities typically holding felons and persons with sentences of more than one year; definition varies by state (see Jails)


ATI permitting a returning citizen to remain in their community instead of serving jail time subject to certain conditions as determined by the court, if a probationer fails to adhere to the conditions of probation they may be designated as in violation and possibly sentenced to a period of incarceration

protect act

federal act enacted in 2003 to strengthen law enforcement’s ability to prevent, investigate, prosecute and punish violent crimes committed against children, specifically regarding child abduction, sex tourism, and child pornography (For more information, see the Federal SORN Policies Fact Sheet )



concept referring to an individual’s relapse into criminal behavior after receiving sanctions for a prior offense, used interchangeably with re-offense; three types are general, specific, and sexual


term used to describe an individual convicted of a registerable sex offense and is legally obligated to provide law enforcement authorities with certain identifying information; A.K.A. a registered sex offender (RSO)


process by which former offenders can receive treatment and live a crime-free life; a popular myth states registrants can’t be rehabilitated

residency restrictions

state laws or local ordinances prohibiting registrants from residing anywhere from 500-2,500 feet of schools, parks, playgrounds, day care centers, bus stops, churches, and other places children may congregate; varies by state and local jurisdictions (see Buffer Zones)

restorative justice

criminal justice theory emphasizing the community’s role in addressing crime, particularly attentive to the harm caused by the offense rather than the violation of the law; in this model the returning citizen is supported, held accountable for their crime, and takes responsibility for their actions while simultaneously aiding the harmed person in their healing process (see COSA)

returning citizen

term used instead of “ex-offender” to change the negative perception of someone who was incarcerated, and therefore “bad,” to an individual who acknowledges they screwed up and wants to transition back as a productive member of society

romeo and juliet statutes

exception to age of consent laws allowing an individual below the age of consent to legally consent to sexual activity with someone close in age; allowable difference in ages is usually four years but it varies by jurisdiction; sometimes, as in Texas, these statutes do NOT apply to same-sex couples (see Age of Consent)


scarlet letter

term describing the use of an identifying mark for the sole purpose of public humiliation, i.e. bumper stickers, ID cards, driver’s license, passport mark, and the sex offender registry

sex offender treatment

therapeutic process to encourage and teach registrants specialized strategies to desist from offending behavior and assume responsibility for their actions


sending of sexually explicit images, videos, text messages, or e-mails via a cell phone or other mobile devices

sexually violent offense (svo)

class of criminal sexual offenses under which an individual can be civilly committed as a SVP; usually refers to aggravated sexual abuse or sexual abuse criminal offenses; or the intent to commit said criminal offenses (see Civil Commitment and Sexually Violent Predator)

sexually violent predator (svp)

person convicted of or charged with a SVO; requires a diagnosis of a mental or personality disorder rendering an individual likely to engage in further predatory SVO’s and threaten public safety if not civilly committed (see Civil Commitment and Sexually Violent Offense)

S.M.A.R.T Office

federal agency created by the AWA to guide and provide technical assistance to jurisdictions and public and private organizations about implementing SORNA; also, tracks legislative and legal developments and administer grants related to the registration, notification, and management of registrants

sex offender registration and notification (SORN)

refers to the set of policies enacted to track and monitor people convicted of sex crimes; two components, the registration of identifying information about a person convicted of a sex crime and the community notification of said identifying information (most often through an online database but also through flyers, community meetings, hotline numbers, and other such means

sex offender registration and notification act (SORNA)

a set of mandates under Title I of the AWA requiring the registration and community notification of individuals convicted of certain sexual offenses; these offenses include sexual crimes against adults AND juveniles at least 14-years of age (see AWA )


a biased and faulty 10-item actuarial assessment measuring the risk of re-offense; comprised only of static risk factors (see Actuarial Risk Assessment and Static Risk Factors)

static risk factors

historical risk factors which increases the risk of re-offense and don’t change over time, i.e. age at offense, number of prior convictions, race, gender, gender of victim, and childhood trauma (see Dynamic Risk Factors)

stranger danger

widely-held, but false, assumption emphasizing children are at a higher risk of sexual victimization from a person unknown to them; research demonstrates children are more likely to be sexually victimized by someone close to them


tier classification system

method to assign a registrant to a level of community notification with either a risk-or offense-based approach; risk-based classification is determined based on a court’s assessment of a registrant’s likelihood of re-offense and danger posed to the community whereas offense-based classification depends on the details of the crime committed (the more severe the offense, the higher the risk)

tough on crime movement

refers to a set of criminal legal policies emphasizing punishment as the main, and often only, answer to crime


wetterling act

federal act enacted in 1994 requiring states to register people convicted of certain sex offenses; repealed by the AWA (For more information, see the Federal SORN Policies Fact Sheet)