According to this article, children as young as age ten in Texas can get on the sex offender registry, so even if their juvenile criminal records are sealed, people can find out about their past crimes. In some states, you can register children as young as seven.
I’ve always had problems trying kids as adults, even for really serious crimes such as murder. Especially troubling is really young kids, some of them not even into their teens, getting tried in adult courts. I don’t think it’s right. Obviously, someone who is, say, eleven years old knows it is wrong to murder people, and they should be severely punished, but an eleven-year-old is not a short adult. They keep RAISING the age for juveniles to do just about anything else (drink, have sex, drive, etc), but LOWERING it to try them as adults whenever they do something bad. Hypocrisy, anyone?
You change so much during your adolescence. I’m twenty-three years old. I’m not the same person I was at fourteen, or even at sixteen. I wouldn’t even recognize my fourteen-year-old self today. I think back at the stuff she did and thought and I am embarrassed and ashamed for her. The article says most juvenile sex offenders are quite treatable and rarely recind. A young person is pliant enough to get bent back into shape.
In addition to the whole punishing-kids-as-adults issue here, the sex offender registry itself troubles me. I realize this is probably not going to be a popular position with readers of this blog, but I am a bleeding heart raving liberal and have some civil liberty qualms with it. Even recent events have not persuaded me that the sex offender registry is Always A Good Thing, the way some people seem to think. What bothers me the most, though, is that these days you don’t even have to do much to get on the registry. In some states, even something like urinating in public (“indecent exposure”) is enough to put you on the list. Many people have heard about the latest scandal with “sexting” — teens sending suggestive, even pornographic, pictures of each other to each other’s cell phones. Well, a fifteen-year-old involved with sexting, even with pictures of their own selves, is possessing child pornography and could find him- or herself on the registry for the next decade. And during that time, in a lot of states they won’t be able to live within a thousand feet of a school or a church or a lot of other places, and have all the other restrictions.
So, no. I don’t think juveniles — particularly juveniles who were convicted of offenses in juvenile court where the records are supposed to be sealed — should be on the sex offender registry.
*shuffles notes, steps off soapbox*