Friday, January 13, 2012

It's all about the kids... really?

As Scott Greenfield likes to point out -- it's all about the kids.

According to an article from the Associate Press, a little more than a third of the people who committed sex offenses against juveniles are, themselves, juveniles. And, since it's all about the kids, these juveniles are now required, in many instances, to register as sex offenders.

What purpose does that serve? What purpose is served by requiring a teenager to register as a sex offender for life? What's that going to do for his education prospects? What's that going to do for his future employment prospects?

All we're doing is guaranteeing he will fail in life. And if he can't get his education, and if he can't find a job, then what's he going to do? If it's all about the kids, what about the kids whose lives are being destroyed before they've even begun?

But you can't reduce that to a soundbite. You can't reduce it to a slogan. It would take some actual thought to understand the irreparable harm we're doing - and no one in the state legislature is willing to do that. God forbid someone criticize them as being soft on crime or coddling child molesters. Mustn't take that risk.

So we force them to register as sex offenders for life.

Mark Chaffin, a professor at the University of Oklahoma, was the co-author of a 2009 report for the Juvenile Justice Bulletin entitled "Juveniles who commit sex offenses against minors." In that report the authors noted that the vast (I might even say "overwhelming") majority of juveniles who committed sexual offenses against minors are never charged with another sex offense.

Similarly, clinical data point to variability in risk for future sex offending as an adult. Multiple short- and long-term clinical fol­lowup studies of juvenile sex offenders con­sistently demonstrate that a large majority (about 85–95 percent) of sex-offending youth have no arrests or reports for future sex crimes. When previously sex-offending youth do have future arrests, they are far more likely to be for nonsexual crimes such as property or drug offenses than for sex crimes. These empiri­cal findings contrast with popular thought and widely publicized anecdotal cases that disproportionately portray incidences of sex crime recidivism. Nevertheless, a small number of sex-offending youth are at ele­vated risk to progress to adult sex offenses. To identify those who are more likely to progress to future offending, researchers have developed actuarial risk assessment tools that have demonstrated some predic­tive validity; efforts to refine these tools are underway.

Citations omitted.

Once again I ask the question, what purpose is served by requiring these juveniles to register as sex offenders for life? More importantly, why hasn't anyone in power thought about the long-term implications of sex offender registration?

It doesn't take courage to stand up in front of an audience and announce that you're tough on crime. It doesn't take courage to stand up and tell them that "it's all about the kids." It does take courage, however, to  take the time to explain why we need to think about the consequences of the laws we pass today. It does take courage to stand up to stop the madness.

That is one thing sadly lacking in Austin.

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