Throwaway Children: The Tragic Consequences of a False Narrative

38 Pages Posted: 30 Dec 2015

Date Written: December 29, 2015

Abstract

Truth be told, we are afraid for our children and we are afraid of our children. The intersection of these disparate thoughts has produced a perfect storm. We have created increasingly harsh sex offender registration schemes to protect our children from sexual abuse. At the same time, fear of our children ensnares and punishes them under the very same laws that were designed to protect them. Yet, what compels action is premised on a false narrative that includes flawed studies on recidivism rates and misguided case decisions that embraced these findings.

In this article, I explore the inherently unfair and deeply flawed practice of mandatory lifetime registration for children who commit sex offenses. Examination reveals two fallacies in a system that condemns children to lifetime monitoring: the breadth of its ensnarement, and the presumption of a child’s continued sexual predatory behavior. Fueled by emotional rhetoric, both are tightly bound in a fundamentally false narrative that is unnecessary and wholly damaging for the child registrant.

The utility of an overly-simplified registration scheme comes with a hefty price tag: the acknowledgement that mandatory lifetime registration captures and shatters the lives of many non-dangerous children. It is a price tag we should no longer be willing to bear. In the face of overwhelming statistical evidence to the contrary, we must commit to changing the false narrative that children who commit sex offenses are presumed to become sexually dangerous adults. We must commit to replacing it with a narrative that acknowledges that recidivism rates are low and that mandatory lifetime registration is both unnecessary and devastating.

Keywords: sex offender, sex offender registration, juvenile sex offender, juvenile justice system

JEL Classification: K14, K40, K42

Suggested Citation

Carpenter, Catherine L., Throwaway Children: The Tragic Consequences of a False Narrative (December 29, 2015). Southwestern Law School Research Paper No. 2015-26. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2709091 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2709091

Catherine L. Carpenter (Contact Author)

Southwestern Law School ( email )

3050 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90010
United States
213-738-6875 (Phone)
213-738-6698 (Fax)

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