Wednesday, January 17, 2007
An increasing number of states, including Kansas and Illinois, are requiring people who committed sex crimes as juveniles to be added to public sex offender lists. Under Illinois' law, effective in 2006 but yet to be enforced due to legal challenges, some juveniles could be placed on the public lists for the rest of their lives and others for many years, depending on their crime. So consider the circumstances of a real case in Illinois, involving a high school senior making plans to go to college. You'd never guess about his past because he seems to be a good kid with a promising future. But a few years ago, he pleaded guilty to home invasion and sexual abuse, because, as a 13 year-old boy, he made the mistake of grabbing the 13-year-old neighbor-girl's breasts. He was sentenced to register as a sex offender for 10 years, but the record was accessible only to law enforcement, schools, and daycares. Furthermore, as a juvenile, his record was shielded from the public, but under new laws, at age 17, his name, photograph, address, and crime will be added to public sex offender lists accessible on the internet, along side rapists and child pornographers.
For victim advocates, publicizing juvenile sex offender records is necessary to protect the community. But juvenile-justice leaders say laws like Illinois' new law, lump those guilty of "youthful indiscretions" with serious sexual offenders. Some say only the most serious offenders should be on public registries. Others say public exposure for any youth crime goes against the foundation of juvenile justice--that youths can be rehabilitated. The controversy is likely to intensify. Under a federal law passed in July, states will have to place certain teen sex offenders on public lists by 2009. Story from ChicagoTribune here. . . Related post here. . . [Michele Berry]