In an op-ed for The Crime Report, Center on Youth Registration Reform founder Nicole Pittman writes of the horrendous toll being on a sex offender registry – even ones that are not public - does to children who are forced to register.
Approximately 200,000 of the more than 800,000 registered citizens in the United States were juveniles when they were first listed.
They experienced social isolation, and were often physically banished from their homes and communities by invisible barriers. As adults, they struggled to find jobs because of their status and were required to regularly check in with law enforcement. Failure to report even a minor change in their life situation could result in a felony charge that would send them to prison.Of the kids I interviewed, one in 5 had attempted to take their own lives. Many I never had the chance to talk with succeeded in doing so.
As with adult offenders, the vast majority of juvenile offenders will not commit new sex crimes. Pittman points out there is no benefit to listing children on the registry.
Tracking hundreds of thousands of registrants for entire lifetimes is a costly burden to law enforcement. The conservative Washington, DC-based R Street Institute recently conducted an economic analysis revealing this practice costs as much as $3 billion a year and has virtually no economic or societal benefit.Decades of research definitively show it’s ineffective at best, and counterproductive at worst. Meanwhile, 11 states and the District of Columbia have never subjected kids to registration—with the same or lower new offense and recidivism rates.
Many states are beginning to reconsider the practice of listing children on sex offender registries. It remains to be seen whether any reforms take root, and whether reform extends to adult as well as juvenile registrants.