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Juveniles And The Sex-Offender Registry

If the goal of sex offender registration is to protect young people, its use in the case of juvenile offenders is problematic. A startling percentage of sex crimes involving underage victims are committed by other children. In 1 out of 8 of these cases, the person committing the offense is under the age of 12. Sex offender registration law can allow for a child as young as 9 to be branded for life, often under highly questionable circumstances.

One often-cited example is that of a young person who was forced to register as a sex offender for crimes against herself. Juveniles who take nude photos of themselves are often in violation of the law. They are the perpetrator and the victim in the eyes of the law. If a child posts such a nude photo to the Internet, the result could be lifelong registration as a sex offender. 

Naturally, there are many cases where a juvenile offender committed a sex crime against another juvenile. While few people would support the sex offender registration of a child who posted a nude photo of him- or herself, the issue becomes more complicated when another child is involved. One of the major issues raised in these cases is when it is acceptable to hold a person to the standards expected of adults.

Registration as a sex offender can destroy a person's life. The decision to destroy the life of a child before he or she has even reached the age of 13 should not be made lightly. A study conducted by the Department of Justice showed that the vast majority of children who commit sex offenses against other children do not reoffend. The pervasive idea that sex offenders are permanent predators is not supported by research. The dubious benefits of sex offender registration of a child must be weighed against the reality of unemployment or underemployment, depression, anxiety and hopelessness that often accompanies that status.

Source: The New Yorker, "The List," by Sarah Stillman, 14 March 2016 issue 

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