On Emotion, Juvenile Sex Offenders, and Mandatory Registration
3 Journal of Race, Gender, & Policy 1 (2013, Forthcoming)
14 Pages Posted: 11 Mar 2013
Date Written: November 10, 2012
It is both unremarkable and true that juveniles are different from adults. United States Supreme Court decisions over the past decade have highlighted the extent of the differences. Yet, played out against the backdrop of sex offender registration laws, the conversation takes an abrupt turn. Rather than differentiating between adult and juvenile offenders, federal sex offender registration laws require juveniles convicted of certain sex offenses to face the same onerous registration and notification burdens as their adult counterparts.
Tracking the shift in sex offender registration models from “likely to reoffend” to “conviction-based" assessment, this article argues that “conviction-based” assessment is an unstable proposition when applied to child offenders for two fundamental reasons. First, juvenile offenders lack intentionality and purpose that adult offenders possess, thereby diminishing the value that a conviction carries. Further, and more importantly, studies reveal that the commission of juvenile sex crimes does not portend future predatory behavior, raising the question of the purpose of registration for this class of offenders.
Ultimately, the legislative push to require juvenile sex offenders to suffer serious register and notification burdens demonstrates convincingly the pitfall that impacts the entire debate over sex offender registration. Emotional rhetoric controls the legislative agenda, even in the face of compelling arguments to the contrary.
Keywords: sex offender registration, juvenile sex offender, mandatory registration, SORNA
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