Center on Youth Registration Reform Resources
For the first time in nearly 25 years, a national bi-partisan movement is growing to eliminate the practice of placing children on sex offender registries. With support from lawmakers on the left and right, child welfare experts, law enforcement officers, judges, survivors, and the general public, changing the laws is not just a possibility but also a priority. CYRR exists to help these individuals chart a more compassionate and effective path forward, which is why we’ve compiled an extensive library of research on youth registration laws in the United States.
Raised on the Registry: The Irreparable Harms of Placing Children on Sex Offender Registries in the United States (2013) – This Human Rights Watch report remains the most comprehensive examination of the harm caused by placing children on sex offender registries. The pages are enriched with first-person narratives that illustrate the harrowing obstacles children subjected to lifetime registration and public notification face. Readers learn how these restrictions permeate nearly every aspect of a young person’s life by severely restricting where they can live, their ability to find work, and even whether they can attend school — and how too often the consequences of such hardships is fatal.
50 State Breakdown (2016)
Chart summarizing which states do and do not register adjudicated youth.
Youth Registration: A Misguided Approach to Addressing Sexual Harm Fact Sheet (2015)
One-page fact sheet on the harms of youth registration.
A Snapshot of the Juvenile Sex Offender Registration and Notification Laws (2011)
A comprehensive reference guide to the laws, language and practices used in each state.
“Supposed to Protect Youth, Not Ruin Their Lives” – Those who fought for sex offender registration and notification laws sought to protect children from sexual abuse. They did not imagine that the laws would come to ensnare hundreds of thousands of children in a web of devastating lifelong consequences. Patty Wetterling’s son Jacob Wetterling was tragically abducted and never found in 1989. She advocated for the Jacob Wetterling Act, which became the first federal law requiring states to establish sex offender registries. When Congress passed the Wetterling Act, registration wasn’t seen as a panacea for the problem of sexual abuse, nor a scarlet letter to be pinned on all people convicted of crimes. The registry was simply something to make it easier for law enforcement to locate suspects. For the past 11-years, Wetterling has consistently spoken out against the inclusion of children on registries. She’s said, “The whole movement to register juveniles or to lump all who commit any kind of offense into something they can never in their lifetime shake was not the intent. I don’t think anybody foresaw that it would turn into what it’s become.”
Youth registrants and advocates are speaking out alongside survivors of sexual harm and stakeholders from across the political and legal system spectrums – calling for solutions that truly stop sexual abuse instead of policies that destroy children’s lives. Join the movement. End youth registration.
“Stop: We are kids” – Children are children, not “sex offenders.” Calling kids “sex offenders” reduces their humanity to single acts, and implies that they are still and will forever be hurting others. The reality is that 99 times out of 100, kids prosecuted for sex offenses and kids on registries will never commit sex offenses again in their lives. The term “sex offender” is a legal invention not based in any science, and kids given the label have little in common with each other aside from the shared stigma of the term. Kids are placed on the sex offender registry for lots of reasons, including consensual sex with other teenagers, urinating in public, streaking or flashing, playing “doctor” with curious friends, and other more serious harms. Kids who have caused sexual harm need to be held accountable for their actions, but also deserve the chance to grow up and define themselves by more than their mistakes.
Imagine if every person you met knew you first as the worst thing you did when you were a child or teen, and referred to you as that mistake. Will you join the CYRR and commit to changing your language? Try using “youth who are on the registry,” “youth who were adjudicated for sex offenses,” “youth registrants,” or when appropriate, “youth who have committed sexual harm.” It takes a little bit more effort, but it’s worth it. Join the movement. Change your language.