There are no reliable statistics on the number of juveniles — but the problem is clearly on the rise. Each of the 50 states now has at least one grassroots group dedicated to getting young people — many high school age, but some under the age of 10 — off the registry. The effort includes judges and other legal experts who say they have seen the problem often enough to persuade them that the system needs adjustment.On the other side of the debate, the Heritage Foundation released a set of talking points this week lamenting that only 11 US states have implemented the federal Adam Walsh sex offender registration act, mostly because of concerns about cost and overreach.. I found the arguments strange: More often the Heritage Foundation opposes federal coercion of states, focusing instead on the 10th Amendment and states' rights to make their own laws. They've also come out in recent years opposing overriminalization, particularly at the federal level. But somehow on the hot-button issue of sex offender registries, Big Brother knows best and the peonage out here in the hinterlands, believe the authors, should shut up and pay whatever it costs (Texas DPS estimated upwards of $30 million) to implement the law. For more background, see this extensive recent story from CNN on why, five years after its passage, most states have chosen not to comply with the Adam Walsh Act - and despite what Heritage says, for good reason.
Still, the problem is poorly understood. Partly out of embarrassment, some parents don't want to talk about this issue — even as they work to try to remove their own children from the registry. To get some answers as to the extent of the problem, we conducted our own survey, state by state. What we found: Not all states register juveniles, and of the 34 that do, only 23 keep track of the number of juveniles on the registry. In those 23 states, there are nearly 23,000 registered juveniles. No states monitor whether the number of juveniles is on the rise or not, but one state, Oregon, provided an estimate, reporting a 70 percent jump in that state since 2005.
Undoubtedly, some of the juveniles on the list are guilty of violent sexual crimes. The grassroots movement is trying to help a different group of people: high school students who get labeled as sex offenders for teenage sexual behavior that can be technically criminal, but which, activists argue, should fall into a different category. Under the current system, kids' futures are being ruined, says William C. Buhl, a recently retired Michigan circuit judge who became an activist after overseeing 12 convictions of teenagers for consensual sex. Says Buhl, "What we have done, to young men, mostly, is destroy their lives, for somewhat common behavior."
Friday, August 05, 2011
'The Accidental Sex Offender'
The magazine Marie Claire tells the story of "The Accidental Sex Offender" - a Texan on the sex offender registry who's married to his "victim." The subhed offers this provocative summation: "It was a classic teenage love story. He was a football star, and she was a cheerleader. They met, they fell in love, they started having sex. And then the cops got involved. Fifteen years later, they're still paying the price." A notable excerpt reads: