Monday, September 21, 2009

Sex offender registration applies scarlet letter to juveniles

The Houston Chronicle today has a feature on the issue of juveniles in the state sex offender registry. Juvenile sex offenders must remain on the registry 10 years after the end of their sentence. Reports the Chron ("A long wait to get past crime," Sept. 21):
About 3,600 people on the state's registry were added as juveniles, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety, which administers the registry. Eleven were 10 years old when they registered.

The registry has 26 juveniles who are currently 13 to 16 years old, according to state records. Of the more than 340 juvenile registrants who live in Harris County, three are currently 16 years old, records show.

Many people are not aware that juveniles can be registered as sex offenders in Texas. State legislators made registration mandatory for adults and juveniles when they established the sex offender registry in 1991. Texas does not have a minimum age for juvenile registration, but the minimum age for prosecution is 10. ...

Juvenile registration has been debated by lawmakers, child advocates and crime victim proponents for the past decade. Those who support it contend the community has a right to know about dangerous sex offenders — adult or juvenile. Critics argue that the negative consequences on juveniles and their families far outweigh any benefits to the community. No research suggests registration makes communities safer, they said.

Access to court records for juveniles with delinquent backgrounds are generally restricted to protect them from shame and to give them a fresh start. But anyone can access the state's online sex offender registry and see the juvenile's criminal charge. The registry, which went online in 1997, also makes available the juvenile's address, where he attends schools and annual mug shots.

A requirement in the federal Adam Walsh Act to increase juvenile registration to 25 years after the offense was one of the balking points that caused Texas to request an extension for compliance, the paper reports: “We're not sure if we're ready to pass the Adam Walsh Act,” said Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee. Registration “should be left up to the states.” That federal legislation would eliminate discretion currently enjoyed by Texas judges to remove well-behaved juveniles from the registry or to waive registration at sentencing.

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

It is not mandatory for juveniles to register as sex offenders in Texas, it's an option.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

It's an option for the sentencing judge - that's the discretion the Adam Walsh Act would take away.

Anonymous said...

Well, there is a need for the option to require some juvenile sex offenders to register. Clearly not every juvenile that is adjudicated for a sex offense should be required to register.

Pirate Rothbard said...

The sex offender registry is waste, a publicity stunt.

But I do like that this gives the public information about a person’s sexual offenses as a juvenile. I wish they could totally unseal the juvenile records for all cases. If the state is going to arrest juveniles we might as well have transparency in government and be able to study the data.

Anonymous said...

So mistakes a child makes at 11 or 12 can follow him the rest of his life? Is that what you're advocating?

Pirate Rothbard said...

Look, there are a lot of children who who get arrested for things that shouldn't even be illegal. Even so called sex offenders are sometimes doing things that shouldn't be illegal.(Romeo and Julliet etc)

But if an 11 year old mollests a 3 year or kills someone in a drive by shooting and gets arrested... I do wish it was public knowledge.

Our government works best when things are transarent rather than kept secret. Don't worry, won't happen any time soon.

Anonymous said...

Children should NOT be on a public registry! i thought laws were meant to "protect the children". Give me a break! Our entire neighborhood used to "play doctor" until we got caught. We were all grounded and no more doctor. Thank heavens no one called the law. geeeezzzz....

whitsfoe said...

It's a HUGE problem for us folks, and one that needs attention the next session. When judges opt to defer until "successful completion of the program," and the TYC has very limited beds for these juvenile offenders, then it's really unfair to the youth and his or her family for years.

On a side note: We are in a reform effort so successfully completing this program, whether it's a bonafide sex offender treatment program or an adjunct program that talks about sex offenses is starting to become muddy with regard to who completed and who did not.

Nonetheless, almost all of these juvenile offenders who are committed to TYC under these laws are experimenting young with what they've been exposed to themselves, either by actions or by Internet exposure at 10-12 years of age and it's sad when these judges label them as sex offenders. They are required to register as sex offenders well into their 20's, and it's really damaging their pro-social development.

Adams Law is an understandable knee jerk reaction that "applies to all." Target a true perp. but use a little more wisdom when it applies to the juvenile offender.

John Whitmire opened that door. Although I despise him mostly, I applaud him here.

Anonymous said...

ANON 6:22

You are dead wrong. While I believe the majority of juvenile sex offenders should not register, there are those that should. Don't think for one second that all juveniles adjudicated for sex offenses were playing doctor!

VDog said...

With regard too the Sexual Offender Registration laws, the public dissemination of public information in such a way as to guarantee public humiliation, loss of privacy, reckless endangerment and threat of harm (even extinction), risk & humiliation of innocent family members and fellow employees, destruction of innocent children’s lives, has been ruled permissible by the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS)… However, the raping of individuals rights to residency, protection from banishment, right to affordable housing, restrictions on gainful employment, restraints against freedom of movement and lawful assembly, destruction of ability to assimilate into society, restrictions from access to public services and facilities, and general banishment from society, even retroactively after conviction and/or after a person has served their sentence, has yet to be ruled on. Please ACLU and others, please give the SCOTUS the opportunity to unconstitutionally screw up that ruling too.

Anonymous said...

ALL sex offenders should be required to register regardless of their age AND their registration information should be available to the public. Allowing the public to know who is a "sex offender" is a right the public needs to insist upon. When a juvenile commits a sex crime and is convicted he/she should NOT be protected from registration and public disclosure that accompanies registration. Rather society and the community must know who is a sex offender and registration meets that need. Perhaps Texas and other states need to review what is considered an offense that requires registration, but juvenile or adult REGISTRATION SHOULD BE REQUIRED and not optional.

Anonymous said...

You are also dead wrong! What about the 18 year old that has consensual sex with the 15 year old? Should he register for life? He is not a predator and poses no risk to the community.

I have a 10 year old on supervision right now that was referred for aggravated sexual assualt. He had sex with his younger sister. He lives in a disfunctional home with no supervision. At an early age, it is unbelievable what he has been exposed to. He is a product of his environment and you want him to register at the age of 10?

I am all for registration; however, there are exceptions and I see them everyday.

Anonymous said...

The whole registery is a big pile of $#*#. They dump all in the same pot it does not matter if you mooned someone you could be the next sex offender.

I don't see where I can go online and see if I am living next to a killer. That will be the next thing for Legislation to vote on.

Any registery causes for the offender to serve a LIFE sentence in their brand new prison call their home. Don't forget the family is also now in prison.

Mickey said...

This is an interesting little debate on the idea of registering offenders. In my experience a a criminal attorney, (1) MOST of those required to register are NOT the offenders (rapists, molesters, etc) from which we seek protection; (2) registry (rightful or wrongful) almost certainly precludes the offender's ever being accepted back into society as a contributing member(he will be shunned from jobs, prevented from living in many locations, prevented from standing in many locations, prohibited from using a computer, require permission to date, get married or have children, and so forth); (3) the worst offenders do not register or seek to circumvent registration; AND (4) MOST people never ever consult the registry.

I agree with Grits and others, the whole thing is a knee-jerk reaction which is yet another feel-good and useless easy band-aid which will not fix the underlying problems. Much easier to attach the scarlet letter than to find a real, creative solution to the problem.

RAS said...

I think the registry is a needed. It obviously needs modified but I'm skeptical that it is as useless as many here say. Are child molestors ever really cured of their lust for little children? If not then why don't they all reoffend? Because of fear of the consequences and knowing their name is on the registry certainly increases that fear of being caught since they would start at the top of the suspect list. You all point out examples that shouldn't be sex crimes in the first place, that's the lege's problem to solve. We had a 10 year old that molested his little sister and ended up staying in TYC until he was 21 because his parents wouldn't take him back and no place could be found that would. The point from his situation is that I've wondered ever since how a kid too young to have hormones could be a 'sex' offender. Also if no such boys home exists that will take kids in his situation then TYC needs to start one. Not a correctional facility, but as normal a home as possible, maybe with a therapist on staff to gradually improve their view of the world.

whitsfoe said...

Look at this 12 year old from Smith county. He was caught by his 9 year old sister masturbating. She went to school and told her teacher. The kid was charged with Indecency w/a child (by exposure) and he was required to register. I shook my head then as I do now. Yes, he was a black child as well, and we all know about that county.

I look at it like this: sex offender registration should be reserved for adults. So if you want to register that teenager or pre-teen, certify them as adults. That way, that registration is reserved for the most serious offender.

Anonymous said...

Here is another example in my county. A 14 year old talks a small child into the woods where she is raped. His justification, he paid her a dollar. He is fortunate enough to get probation in a plea agreement. While on probation, he reoffends by committing a new sex related offense. He is placed outside the home with specific sex offender treatment. He returns to the community where he continues sex offender treatment. He successfully completes treatment. He is currently in juvenile detention on another sexual assault. Should he register, I think so!!

Nobody is saying all juvenile sex offenders should register; however, there are clearly many that do!

Anonymous said...

@anon 9/22 7:48

"ALL sex offenders should be required to register regardless of their age AND their registration information should be available to the public."

Why is that? so you and people like you can continue to punish them after they have done their time for crimes that may or may not have been a violent act? You are one that has bought into all rSO's are evil people that need to be killed on sight aren't you? Do you also believe in the inflated statistics of every sex offender has 100 to 400 victims? How about yoru children are in danger everytime they leave your siht.

You show your ignorance Anon, as just the thought that you have put forth is the reason that teen lovers are on teh registry today, and why now fathers and mothers will never be able to move beyond things they may or may notbe atoned for. Until we get rid of the registry and go back to punishing for a crime at the time of the crime, then American will always be a third-world nation regarding sex offenses.

The registry currently does nothing to stave off new offenses, as 98% of all new sex offenses are committed by someone NOT on the registry. Following that, it is also a fact the registry protects noone due to the nature of offenses. only 7% of all sex offenses are committed by someone that is a stranger. Mom and dad are statistically more prone to sexually offending that the average 'stranger'.

I will also bet that you have no idea that once caught and tried for their offenses, sex offenders are the 2nd lowest criminal element to reoffend. By why allow fact and logic to stand in your way of damning yoru fellow citizens.

By the way, it is not a 'right' to knwo anything about anyone. People have a right to privacy in a limited circumstance due to idiots just like you.

Pirate Rothbard said...

By the way, it is not a 'right' to knwo anything about anyone. People have a right to privacy in a limited circumstance due to idiots just like you.

I think the registry is a dumb idea, but talking about sex offenders having a right to privacy is bound to make almost everyone cringe.

Anonymous said...

Once they offend, they take their own rights away to privacy. And, sex offenders do repeat sex offenses much more than you know! Are you covering for yourself here? Your lack of knowledge is overly obvious.

Anonymous said...

The truth is that very few juveniles go on to commit additional sex offenses. There is abundant data that suggests the caught and treated juvenile sex offender is very different from the adult sex offender.

Anonymous said...

Elvis Presley was a sex offender and so are many other people. My husband is 8 years older than I am and my grandfather is 12 years older than my grandmother. A 13,14,15,16 year old can committ a murder and everyone is ready and willing to try them as an adult, but when it comes to them having sex they are merely a child. I would rather my 15 year old have sex than committ a murder. The registry has too many people on it that don't belong there. It is impossible for law enforcement to keep up with those that they need to because they are keeping up with young men and women who had consensual sex with a so called child. They are only a child when it comes to sex.

Anonymous said...

What data are you looking at. I work with juvenile sex offenders and have had personal involvement with most of these studies. More of them do get caught than do not. Our facility gets rewards for having one of the highest success rates and we are about 33 percent. Out of the 36 kids that are there at the facility only 3 are on the registry. They get a break and chance.

Anonymous said...

Be carefull what you ask for...

If you consider yourself a "normal" parent, then there is an 87% probability that YOU should be registered as a "sex offender" according to the LAW, and people have been.

Remember taking those pictures of your kids playing in the bath tub??? That is right, they make you a "sex offender" under the LAW.