By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq.
How should we punish child sex offenders? Do they deserve to go to prison? Should they be placed on the sex offender registry? Or do their crimes warrant a different, more rehabilitative approach?
Though this is not a pleasant question, the fact is that about one-quarter of all sex offenders (PDF) are under the age of 18. They come from a wide variety of backgrounds, but are mostly male and between the ages of 12 and 14.
Still, some are as young as 6.
The criminal justice system has a tendency to treat these children like adult pedophiles, reports the Associated Press. There is even a federal law -- the Adam Walsh Act -- that directs states to place 14-year-olds sex offenders on public registries.
Delaware has placed a 9-year-old on its list.
Activists question whether placing child sex offenders on registries overshadows efforts to rehabilitate, explains the Sacramento Bee. By all accounts, children who commit sex crimes are very different than adult offenders.
A number of short- and long-term studies have concluded that only about 85% to 95% of child sex offenders re-offend, according to a report commissioned by the Justice Department. Those who do have future arrests are more likely to be picked up for property or drug crimes.
- I don't agree with this "statistic!" Kids, even adults, have a low recidivism rate, when it comes to new sex related crimes, as documented here in the many studies.
Data also shows that most of these children are not motivated by violence. Juveniles are more likely to commit sex crimes in groups, which indicates that peer pressure is a big factor. Date rape is also more common, which is often explained by immaturity and an inability to read signals.
Juveniles are also more likely to respond to rehabilitative and prevention efforts, according to the government report. This is especially true of offenders who have not yet entered high school.
In light of this information, do you think child sex offenders automatically belong on the sex offender list?
- Treating Child Sex Offenders Like Adults Doesn't Solve Anything (Jezebel)
- Juvenile Crime and Juvenile Justice (FindLaw)