States Starting to Reconsider Putting Juveniles on Sex Offender Registries
Date:  11-30-2015

Some states put young people on adult registries when they turn 18 even when they committed the crime as a child
The Pew Charitable Trusts published an article on November 19, 2015 that reveals that some states are now having second thoughts about adding juveniles to sex offender registries, some which are accessible to the public via the internet. The article gives examples of children who were convicted of “flashing” or touching another child when they were 10-yers old and who were put on an adult sex offender registry when they turned 18, in one case for life. In some areas people within a 3-mile radius of a juvenile convicted of a sexual offense are sent a postcard alerting them that where the juvenile lives. Read Rebecca Beitsch”s sobering article below.

States Slowly Scale Back Juvenile Sex Offender Registries

In states such as Oregon and Delaware, lawmakers have given judges more power to review who goes on the registry. In Pennsylvania, courts have ended lifetime registration for juveniles.

Driving the changes are concerns that putting juveniles’ names and photos on a registry—even one only available to law enforcement, as in some states—stigmatizes them in their schools and neighborhoods and makes them targets of police, sometimes for inappropriate behavior rather than aggressive crimes. Also of concern are laws that add youth sex offenders to adult registries once they turn 18 or 21, even though they were tried as juveniles, not adults. Human Rights Watch in a 2013 report pointed to the case of a 10-year-old Michigan girl who served time after she and her younger brothers flashed one another in 1991. She was placed on the state’s adult registry when she turned 18. The report also cited a Texas juvenile court that convicted a 10-year-old of indecency with a child for touching a younger cousin—a crime resulting in lifetime registration.

Registries Vary

State laws requiring juveniles to register as sex offenders came into wide practice after Congress passed laws such as the 1996 Megan’s Law and the 2006 Adam Walsh Act, which were named in memory of children murdered by sex offenders. They were designed to better track sex offenders and make information easily accessible to law enforcement and the public. They sought more community notification and greater consistency among state registries. Thirty-eight states now add juveniles to sex offender registries. The remaining 12 states only add the names of youths convicted in adult courts.

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