Folks — As you know, this site believes in safety for children. That includes safety from predators as well as safety from hysteria ABOUT predators. Unfortunately, fear for our children has mestastasized into an ever-expanding Sex Offender Registry that now includes even pre-pubescent children, some of them on the list for LIFE, for crimes ranging from actual rape to consensual sex between children to nudity.
This might make sense if these young people represented a threat to other kids as they got older, but the evidence shows they do not. The registration laws “are based on the assumption that children and adolescents who commit sex offenses are at high risk to commit more. But that isn’t true,” says Elizabeth Letourneau. As director of the Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse, her whole job is to — well, prevent child abuse. And she believes that keeping minors on the registry isn’t doing that.
So what IS it doing?
The Registry is ruining the lives of the young people on it. That’s what this Human Rights Watch study, “More Harm than Good,” painfully details. The organization interviewed 281 youth sex offenders whose median age at offense was 15. Here are some quotes from them and their families:
“Once while attempting to register my address, a police officer refused to give me the paperwork and instead stated, ‘We’re just taking your kind out back and shooting them.’” – Maya R., placed on the registry for an offense committed at age 10. Howell, Michigan.
“I have to look at a map before I walk anywhere. I can be arrested if I am walking anywhere near a school or park.”
Blake G., a registrant for an offense committed at age 15. Citrus, Florida.
“One time a man from one of those cars yelled ‘child molester’ at me.” A week later several bullets were fired from a car driving by. “The bullets went through the living room window as my family and me watched T.V.” – Camilo F., registrant since age 14. Gainesville, Florida.
“Because of sex offender restrictions my family had to be divided up. I could not live with children. My father stayed in our house with my younger brother. My mother and me moved in with my grandparents two hours away.” – Sebastian S., youth sex offender who started registering at age 10. Laredo, Texas.
“Everyone in the community knew he was on the sex offender registry, it didn’t matter to them that he was removed…. [T]he damage was already done. You can’t un-ring the bell.” – Mother of Noah M., who was convicted of a sex offense at 12 and committed suicide at 17, after being removed from the registry in Flint, Michigan.
And here’s a remark by Ray Allen, a former Texas legislator and former chairman of the Texas House Corrections Committee– who once helped push tougher sex offender registration bills into law – admitting that he and his colleagues went too far:
“We cast the net widely to make sure we got all the sex offenders … it turns out that really only a small percentage of people convicted of sex offenses pose a true danger to the public.”
The registry sounds like it keeps children safe — that’s why politicians keep expanding it. But until it is reformed it is indeed doing more harm than good. – L