Don't just get kids off the sex offender registry, abolish it

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An estimated one-fourth of the people on the public sex offender registries were convicted as juveniles. Fifteen states post the names and photos of offenders who are minors on the online registries. Thirteen of the 20 states that lock up people in indefinite civil commitment - preventive, dubiously therapeutic detention for crimes not yet committed - include people who committed their offenses as juveniles. "The single age with the greatest number of offenders from the perspective of law enforcement was age 14," according to the U.S. Department of Justice. As Raised on the Registry powerfully showed, with little or no intervention these young people are virtually guaranteed not to "reoffend," mainly because so many of them are penalized for engaging in sex play - things that, even if not always entirely consensual, are common among children and usually without long-lasting harm. [...]

But there are also significant downsides to campaigns that construct children as exceptional and different from adults. The public may just as easily be left feeling that adults who break the law are bad and deserve all they get - or that guilty people do not deserve fairness or sympathy. This gives legislators a rationale for trading off youth-friendly criminal justice policies for harder adult penalties, as recently happened when New Mexico legalized sexting between teens but increased penalties for people 18 and older sexting with people under 18. Not just adults but some youth can be penalized by the focus on "children." Call the person who breaks the law a "child," and there's a danger that any young person not demonstrably childlike will end up prosecuted as an adult.

Exclusive focus on the young offender - rather than a rejection of the entire sex offender regime - avoids the larger, less politically popular truth. "Sex offender registries are harmful to kids and to adults," says Emily Horowitz, associate professor of sociology and criminal justice at St. Francis College in Brooklyn, and a board member of the National Center for Reason & Justice, which works for sensible child-protective policies and against unjust sex laws. "No evidence exists that they prevent sex crimes either by juvenile offenders or adult offenders."

source: Article 'Don’t Just Get Kids Off the Sex Offender Registry. Abolish It' by Judith Levine & Erica Meiners; www.counterpunch.org/2016/04/08/dont-just-get-kids-off-the-sex-offender-registry-abolish-it/; CounterPunch; 8 April 2016