Sex Offender Registries, which list sex offenders in an area and restrict many aspects of on offenders life such as where an offender can reside or spend time an more, are often viewed as protecting the youth in communities from harm. However, should children be listed on these registries? This is the question which Human Rights Watch asked when they conducted research into youth’s lives on the registry and released their report of the findings titled “Raised on the Registry: The Irreparable Harm of Placing Children on Sex Offender Registries in the US“. According to their press release:
“The 111-page report, “Raised on the Registry: The Irreparable Harm of Placing Children on Sex Offender Registries in the US,” details the harm public registration laws cause for youth sex offenders. The laws, which can apply for decades or even a lifetime and are layered on top of time in prison or juvenile detention, require placing offenders’ personal information on online registries, often making them targets for harassment, humiliation, and even violence. The laws also severely restrict where, and with whom, youth sex offenders may live, work, attend school, or even spend time.”
Human Rights Watch suggests that having children on these lists violates basic rights to privacy, education, well-being, Freedom of Movement, protection from violence, and many more aspects of living a ‘normal’ childhood, early adulthood, and adulthood for actions that were usually done without awareness of what was being done. However, they stress that this report does not suggest that those who sexual assault another should not be held accountable, but that “punishment should fit both the offense and the offender, and placing children who commit sex offenses on a public registry – often for life – can cause more harm than good.”.
The report goes on to discuss the outcomes and experiences of youth sex offenders as a result of their placement on the registry. Many experience time in the foster care system, cannot obtain an education, suffer from emotional issues or suicidality, or feel isolated.
There is no better way to account for these experiences than through the words of those youth offenders on the registry. For example, one quote from Human Rights Watch’s press release states:
“For sex offenders, our mistake is forever available to the world to see. There is no redemption, no forgiveness. You are never done serving your time. There is never a chance for a fresh start. You are finished. I wish I was executed, because my life is basically over.”
– Austin S., who started registering at age 14. Denham Springs, Louisiana.
Another story from CNN also discusses the story of a youth sex offender and the effects his being on the registry has had on his life, but more importantly it discusses the belief of the women behind Dru’s Law,which created the first national registry for sex offenders:
“”The registry is intended for the worst of the worst. We’re talking about violent offenders, not teens who were sexting or got involved in a sexual relationship,” said Walker, a member of the Surviving Parents Coalition.”
So, with youth sex offenders often unaware of their actions, and often not likely to reoffend is placing them on the registry causing more harm than it prevents? You Decide.
Written By Georgianna Dolan-Reilly, LMSW
SJS Staff Writer
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