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What happens when minors end up on sex offender registries

The criminal justice system seeks to balance the rights of those who have been convicted of illegal activity with the interests of public safety. For the past several years, sex offender registries have attempted to serve these purposes with regards to a certain population. On the one hand is the public, who wants to be informed about potential threats to their communities. On the other hand are individuals convicted of sex offenses who have served their time and desire to live as privately as possible. The result is registries that hopefully share only absolutely essential private information about former offenders with the public.

Unfortunately, not all registries are as private as they should be. And the branding that these registries place on former offenders can alter their lives forever. Once individuals are forced to register, it can affect their abilities to secure employment, housing, education and to live their lives generally as private, well-meaning citizens.

A new report issued by Human Rights Watch indicates that the consequences of being forced to register can be particularly burdensome on offenders who committed illegal sexual acts as teenagers. In addition to all of the other challenges that registration inspires, these individuals frequently face harassment and homelessness as practical consequences of registration.

To make matters even more challenging, many teens forced to register committed relatively minor crimes, including engaging in consensual sex with another similarly-aged teen. When the consequences of registration grossly affect one population to serve the benefits of another, it becomes time to reexamine their viability. According to Human Rights Watch, the time to reexamine registration requirements for teen offenders is now.

Source: The Center for Public Integrity, "Report details lives ruined for children put on sex-offender registries," Susan Ferriss, May 1, 2013

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