Should prosecutors be allowed more discretion before adding kids to sex offender registries?

“Offenses triggering inclusion on the registries can range widely — from rape to consensual sex between children to “sexting” of photos that depict nudity or sexual activity,” reports the Associated Press.

Human Rights Watch is calling for reform of the laws. The group points to the case of a young man, Austin, from Louisiana who was placed on the registry at age 14 after he had sex with a 12-year-old, which was under the age of consent.

“Our mistake is forever available to the world to see,” Austin is quoted as saying. “You are never done serving your time. There is never a chance for a fresh start.”

The federal Adam Walsh Act requires states to include certain juvenile sex offenders as young as 14 on their registries.

Today’s Question: Should prosecutors be allowed more discretion before adding kids to sex offender registries?

  • Gary F

    As long as the youth offender has to live next store to the prosecutor’s children or those of the Human Rights Watch management.

  • scott44

    I know a young man that is on the “LIST” because his girlfriends parents caught him and thier daughter in bed, both were 17 at the time. In some cases I would say yes.

  • Wally

    And we think child marriage is out of whack? 14 and 12. A sad commentary on this sex-obsessed culture. The very phrase–“sex offender registries”–illustrates the problem. These aren’t even “crimes,” they are “offenses.” If rapists, and I mean REAL rapists, were executed, and molesters were flogged, and perverts were punished, rather than being “treated,” we wouldn’t be having this discussion. More of the fetid fallout of the “Sexual Revolution.”

    • verdant

      It is noteworthy that anti-sex interests by and large seem to favor capital punishment and torture.

      • Cashed Out

        … and punishment of the mentally ill.

      • Sue de Nim

        Most of those you label “anti-sex” would consider themselves “pro-sexual-fidelity.”

  • Ann M

    I read about plenty of incidents in my city, a smaller city.I don’t think we can depend on registries to protect us. Have there been fewer problems since they started having registries?

    • Do you mean “Are there fewer rapes and sexual molestations than before the registries?” No, the number of those crimes has remained relatively stable. Do you mean “Are there more people on the sex offender registry?” Yes. The number of offenses which qualify one to be placed on the registry has grown. Also, since 96.5% of the new convictions for sex offenses are from people who have never been convicted of a sex crime before, the sex offender registry is growing every year and will continue to do so, even if every sex offender now on the registry is kept in jail indefinitely. Do you mean “Are there fewer children adversely effected by sexual offenses than before the registries?” No. There are more, because the sex offender (median age of 14, according to FBI statistics) is so often a child themselves, and they are very adversely affected by their presence on the sex offender registry, as are any siblings. Furthermore, since the offender is often a member of the family, the victim is often more adversely effected than before the registries. Keep in mind also that even “playing doctor” can get a child as young as 8 on the sex offender registry, even in the case of normal childhood mutual curiosity. As you can see in the comments, there are also cases of two teens below the age of consent having mutually consensual sex on the registry. Streakers, mooners, public urinators and other such minor crimes are on the registry. I recall a recent case of some boys who were being prosecuted for slapping other children on the buttocks, during a “butt-slap” day. These, among other reasons, are the reasons that nothing has improved, only gotten more public.

  • Sue de Nim

    Absolutely. The American justice system is based too much on vindictiveness and not enough on rehabilitation. When a youthful indiscretion can effectively ruin a young person’s life, whether through the “sex offender” registry, or a felony conviction that has to be reported on job applications, something is horribly wrong.

  • Mark in Ohio

    While I generally don’t like giving elected officials any more powers than you have to, I think that they should have discretion in these cases. Perhaps it should be a small group of prosecutors and judges who make the decision, to help prevent abuses of power. Given that I’ve heard of kids being forced to register as sex offenders for mooning someone and getting caught, I think that the definition of who has to register has become too wide and is not fulfilling the original intent of enhancing public safety.

  • fritz

    That kind of list shouldn’t be for people who have committed “youthful indiscretions” it should be for predators. If judges aren’t capable of telling the difference, they don’t belong on the bench. I wouldn’t leave it to prosecutors, but I can see giving judges discretion. If we don’t like the results, we can vote them out of office.

  • Max

    These registries are overly inclusive. I had a friend who is registered sex offender in the state of Louisiana because he got a ticket for peeing in an alley at Mardi Gras. Now if he wanted to live there he would be required to go around and knock on his neighbor’s doors explaining that he is a sex offender.

    Prosecutorial discretion would help but it’s not going to solve the problem because you are leaving it up to someone’s discretion. A prosecutor may have an interest in claiming that they prosecuted x number of sex offenders when running for office or applying for a job. The registry laws themselves need to eliminated or severely restricted.

  • Dave

    would you want your daughter to go out with someone who mooned a bue or had sex with a 13 year old,”Dont do the crime if you cant do the time”

  • Jim G

    Yes. Our human brains don’t mature until we’re approximately 25 years old. It makes no sense to give life-long consequences to those who don’t have the mature brain-power to understand how their sexual behavior will affect their adult lives.

  • Hey Der

    Zero tolerance is never a good idea. Having a lifetime listing on a sex offender registry for peeing in an alley or streaking through a high school football game is ridiculous. Save the registry for those serious criminals that belong there.

  • verdant

    It’s difficult to answer statistically and without careful study, but from programs on 60 Minutes, the system seems utterly out of whack, causing needless suffering. It does appear that much of this is an outgrowth of the culture war, in particular a result of 8 years of Bush II judge appointments with an anti-sex far Right Christian agenda.

    Discretion of judges is probably a good thing, but it does introduce another set of problems, regional anomalies, for one.

  • Yes, All these laws do is destroy lives, not help. I wonder how many of these prosecutors and politicians when they were kids did not play doctor with the boy/girl next door. How about when you are a teenager and you take your date to a drive-in movie, (yes, I am showing my age) and fooled around in the back sit, or parking somewhere to watch the submarine races. They too, should have to register as a sex offender.