Requiring juveniles to register as sex offenders can hinder rehabilitation efforts and have significant, long-term negative consequences for young perpetrators who are statistically unlikely to re-offend, according to a study released Tuesday.
Among the most significant outcomes of the new 150-page report (embedded below) released by the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission is a recommendation that the state end its “counterproductive” practice of requiring juvenile offenders to add their names to sex offender registries.
“Automatic, categorical registries do not protect public safety,” George Timberlake, a retired chief circuit judge who chaired the commission, told the Associated Press. “There’s no evidentiary basis that says they do and more importantly, they have very negative consequences in the effects they have on the offenders’ life, and perhaps the victim’s life.”
Juvenile justice advocates have argued requiring minors to register as sex offenders is tantamount to handing them a “virtual life sentence” for crimes committed in their youth — crimes encompassing serious offenses like rape but also minor ones like consensual sex, public nudity and public urination.
In 2013, Human Rights Watch issued an extensive report on the “irreparable” harm of placing minors on sex offender registries in the U.S.
“You’ve got to create a system that keeps the public safe but does not stigmatize a young person for the rest of their life,” Mai Fernandez, a former prosecutor who is executive director of the National Center for Victims of Crime, told the AP last year.
“Many people assume that anyone listed on the sex offender registry must be a rapist or a pedophile,” Nicole Pittman, the Human Rights Watch report’s author, said. “But most states spread the net much more widely.”
Finding housing and employment are among the biggest challenges for juvenile offenders on the general sex offenders registry, which makes information like recent photos, home address and place of work publicly available. Many ex-offenders report being harassed, excommunicated or otherwise targeted once neighbors find them on the registry. It can have tragic results in some cases.
Source: Black Voices | Kim Bellware