The Facts About Youth Registration
In 39 states, laws exist that require children as young as 8 years old to be placed on sex offender registries, often for life, when adjudicated of what the courts deem sexual crimes. Since this practice began in the 90s, decades of research have proven that placing youth on registries is not just ineffective but harmful to all parties involved. While registration and notification sentences marginalize and label youth, they do nothing to benefit society or protect children from future sexual harm.
The nation has reached a turning point in the way the criminal justice system views young people, who for decades were little more than an after thought, treated simply like miniature adults. Over the past year, we celebrated a Supreme Court ruling that gives people serving life without parole for crimes committed as kids a chance at release, as well as a presidential ban on solitary confinement for the those under-18 in federal prisons. CYRR’s mission is to make youth registration next on the reform agenda.
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
reported that registration not only impacted the registrant but significantly harmed their families.
Understanding Youth Sexual Behavior
For the most part, youth offenses are for normative sexual behavior, including touching, “playing doctor,” streaking, sexting and teenage Romeo and Juliet romances. While serious intentional harm does occur, it’s much less common.
Trace reoccurrence rates
A meta-analysis of studies found more than 95 percent of adjudicated youth never commit another sexual offense. Child psychology experts say children are less likely to have fixed behavioral patterns and usually “grow out of” concerning conduct.
A survey of 500 cases showed 100 percent of youth registrants had experienced some form of abuse or neglect in the year preceding the offense, highlighting the false binary that exists between whom we label victims and perpetrators.
A Path Forward
A recent national poll surveying more than 4,800 people found that 69 percent of respondents disagree with including minors on registries.
More than half a dozen states are considering legislation that would remove youth from registries, joining the 11 states that have never done so.
Supreme Court intervention
State Supreme Courts in Ohio and Pennsylvania in recent years have ruled mandatory registration for minors is unconstitutional.