A Distinct and Varied Set of Behaviors The image of the adult sexual predator is a poor fit for the vast majority of children who commit sexual offenses. First, sex offender registries are focused on preventing recidivism, when instead the focus should be on deterring the first offense from ever happening. Sex offender laws that trigger registration requirements for children began proliferating in the United States during the late s and early s. Although the details about some youth offenders prosecuted in juvenile courts are disclosed only to law enforcement, most states provide these details to the public, often over the Internet, because of community notification laws. Overlaying this diversity is a series of federal laws. A family member or significant other was present for a portion of most of the interviews.
Finally, the impacts of being a youth offender subject to registration are multi-generational—affecting the parents, and also the children, of former offenders. The Lychner Act, passed in , amended the federal community notification laws, providing for a national database to track sex offenders and subjecting certain offenders to lifetime registration and notification requirements. In February , approximately , individuals nationwide were listed on sex offender registries. Their forming identities make young offenders excellent candidates for rehabilitation—they are far more able than adults to learn new skills, find new values, and re-embark on a better, law-abiding life. In , Stella A. A Policy Based on a Misconception Sexual assault is a significant problem in the United States and takes a huge toll on survivors, including children. According to the Justice Department, 93 percent of sexually abused children are molested by family members, close friends, or acquaintances. The median age at first registration was I felt so deeply sad for what he had been through, and I battled with feelings of responsibility. Moreover, early thinking about juvenile sexual offending behavior was based on what was known about adult child molesters, particularly the adult pedophile, under the mistaken belief that a significant portion of them began their offending during childhood. The children of youth sex offenders often cannot be dropped off at school by their parent. Human Rights Watch selected the 20 states because of their geographic diversity and different policy approaches to youth sex offenders. However, more recent clinical models emphasize that this retrospective logic has obscured important motivational, behavioral, and prognostic differences between youth sex offenders and adult sex offenders and has therefore overestimated the role of deviant sexual tendencies in people convicted of sex offenses as children. Registrants were between the ages of 14 and 48 at the time we interviewed them. As a result, he was placed in a juvenile home. Age Throughout the United States, children as young as nine years old who are adjudicated delinquent may be subject to sex offender registration laws. Eight interviewed registrants were age 10 or younger at the time of their conviction and when registration began, with the youngest being 9 years old. The preference is for treatment, not registration, and most high-risk youth are placed in treatment programs with registration decisions deferred until they are released, at which point they may no longer be deemed high-risk. Second, sex offender registration overburdens law enforcement. If some youth offenders are subject to these laws, they should never be automatically placed on registries without undergoing an individualized assessment of their particular needs for treatment and rehabilitation, including a periodic review of the necessity of registration. Children are not merely younger versions of adult sexual offenders. Upon release from juvenile detention or prison, youth sex offenders are subject to registration laws that require them to disclose continually updated information including a current photograph, height, weight, age, current address, school attendance, and place of employment. First, sex offender registries are focused on preventing recidivism, when instead the focus should be on deterring the first offense from ever happening. The overwhelming majority of the individuals interviewed for this report started registering when they were children under age A full 84 percent of those interviewed by Human Rights Watch were 17 years old or younger when they began registering.
Video about statistics of mistaken identity of sex offenders:
First Person: Sex Offenders Living in Tents
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