Illustration for article titled Do Child Offenders Belong on the Sex Offender Registry for Life?

A current lawsuit against the governor of Colorado alleges that juveniles convicted of sex crimes should not be forced to register as sex offenders for their entire lives. The plaintiffs argue that registering offenders (children and certain adults) for life is "cruel and unusual," and, more broadly, that the sex offender registry itself is pretty much just complete garbage that doesn't demonstrably help anyone whatsoever. Well then.

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Via Alternet:

Plaintiffs A.A., D.M. and V.A. sued Hickenlooper in his official capacity, in Federal Court. They challenge enforcement of the Colorado Sex Offender Registration Act, which they say invades their privacy and does not benefit the community.

A.A., now 23, "was eleven years old when she allegedly committed aggravated incest," according to the lawsuit. She was arrested 3 years later, in 2003, adjudicated delinquent, and released from supervision in December 2007, a few days before her 18th birthday.

A.V., now 28, was 13 when a classmate at his elementary school "accused him of 'always trying to hug her.' He was adjudged delinquent for criminal attempt to commit third degree sex assault," according to the complaint. He was sentenced to juvenile hall, served his time, was paroled and discharged from parole.

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The third plaintiff, D.M., completed his probation and treatment for 2nd-degree sexual assault in 2007, and has had no run-ins with the law or accusations of any kind since then. All three plaintiffs have struggled to find consistent work and housing.

Attempts to draw distinctions between different "kinds" of sexual assault always veer uncomfortably close to "well, it's not rape rape" rhetoric, and I'm leery of dismantling a system designed—however imperfectly—to protect past and future victims, when support for victims is scant enough as it is. But you can't deny that an aggressive 13-year-old hugger is a different "kind" of sexual predator than an adult serial rapist. And marking that child as a predator indefinitely is essentially dooming a life before it really begins. And for what purpose? Are sex offender registries even effective? The lawsuit says no:

"There is zero peer-reviewed empirical, statistical or anecdotal evidence or research that the sex offender registries 'keep children safe' or that the sex offender registries have any demonstrable positive impact upon community safety. Instead, all the sex offender registries accomplish is to provide information to harass, isolate, discriminate and demonize sex offenders who have completed their treatment and pose no demonstrable risk to community safety whatsoever. The sex offender registries encourage vigilante justice and violence toward the people who appear on the registries. In the last fifteen years, there have been more violent crimes committed upon the people who appear on the sex offender registries rather than are committed by the people who appear on the sex offender registries. The sex offender registries negatively impact community safety by creating a class of citizens who have enormous difficulty finding employment and housing as a result of appearing on the registries. Chronically unemployed and homeless persons are more likely to become victims of mental illness or suicide, resort to petty crimes and trespass in order to survive or become victims of violent crime themselves."

Oof. Nothing like "solutions" that are actually just problems in disguise.

Image via Lightspring/Shutterstock.

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DISCUSSION

Yipes. Yeah, this is extremely tricky. Because while you do have juvenile offenders who go on to be sociopaths (for example, the monsters who murdered James Bulger, age 2, when they were 10... do not go to that Wiki page unless you have a warm cozy blanket and several boxes of tissues), the majority of juvenile offenders are acting out against their own abuse and are extremely receptive to intervention. Indeed, the recidivism rate for juvenile offenders who receive some sort of treatment is quite rare.

Then, of course, there's the fact that crazy innocent shit will get you on a sex offender registry. If we're talking about unwanted childhood hugging, I was, like, the Charles Manson of too much hugging. So this is absurd.