In the height of the 90’s Tough-on-Crime era, the United States began placing youth as young as 8 years old on sex offender registries when they’re adjudicated of sexual crimes. Since then, decades of research have proven that subjecting kids, whose identities are otherwise protected in juvenile courts, to registration and notification laws has absolutely no value. It doesn’t make our streets safer, nor deter future crimes. Instead it destroys the lives of registrants and their families, which often includes the victim. Fortunately, the nation has reached a turning point in the way the criminal justice system views young people. Over the past year, we celebrated a Supreme Court ruling that found sentencing minors to life without parole unconstitutional, as well as a presidential ban on solitary confinement for inmates under 18. CYRR’s mission is to now eliminate the practice of putting children on registries.
Youth Registration in the U.S.
A Pressing Problem
Recent figures show there are close to 850,000 people of all ages on sex offender registries in the United States; roughly 200,000 were placed on the registry for offenses that took place under the age of 18.
When youth are put on registries, their names, photos and addresses are often made public, leading to vigilante violence, stigmatization, severe psychological harm, homelessness and unemployment. One in five attempt suicide.
Studies have shown the country spends upward of $3 billion on registering and tracking kids. Tax-payer money would be better spent on prevention and intervention services that actually reduce sexual violence.
Registration Laws Cause Lifelong Harm
of youth registrants and their families are the targets of vigilante violence, including threats to their lives.
of youth registrants suffer serious psychological harm. 1 in 5 attempt suicide. Many succeed.
of children on the registry experience homelessness due to “safety zone” restrictions.
say that registration significantly harms their entire families, which often includes the victim.
How Kids End Up On The Registry
The majority of youth end up on registries for normative or experiential sexual behavior, including “playing doctor,” streaking, sexting and teenage Romeo and Juliet romances. While kids do commit serious offenses, it’s less common. Meanwhile, a meta-analysis of studies found that more than 95 percent of youth registrants, regardless of the charge, never commit another sexual offense. None of this is to say that youth sexual behavior doesn’t cause harm but that registries aren’t the way to prevent it.