February 8, 2016

Putting Juveniles on Sex Offender Registries

A recently released Pew Charitable Trusts research analysis published by Stateline magazine indicates that some states are rethinking policies that allow juveniles to be placed on sex offender registries.

According to the analysis, 38 states add juveniles to sex offender registries, while 12 states add only the names of those convicted in adult courts. “In some states, youths may petition to have their names removed from the registry, although it can take more than a decade before they begin the process,” the analysis states. “Some add names to a registry for a set amount of time, while others keep offenders on the list until they die.”

The PEW analysis points out concerns associated with putting juveniles’ names and photos on a registry, which include stigmatizing them in their schools and neighborhoods and making them targets of police, “sometimes for inappropriate behavior rather than aggressive crimes,” the analysis states. Also of concern are laws that add youth sex offenders to adult registries once they turn age 18 or 21, even though they were tried as juveniles, not adults.

The analysis points out some states that have made changes to their laws.  For example, in Oregon and Delaware judges now have more discretion in determining who goes on the registry.  Also, Pennsylvania has ended lifetime registration for juveniles.  In Oklahoma, the juvenile sex offender registry is accessible only by law enforcement, and children are only considered for registration if a prosecutor determines that they might commit another offense and files an application to have them added to the registry when they are released from custody.

Still, the registries’ supporters say they are necessary for public safety and “serve an important purpose for families and victims,” while opponents counter that the “penalties are too harsh for children who have been intentionally kept out of adult court,” according to the analysis.

The full article is available below: