The criminal justice system generally seeks to balance the safety of the public with the rights of those who have been accused or convicted of criminal activity. When individuals are convicted of sex crimes, many are compelled to register with state and federal officials in the name of public safety. These offenders have their names, residences, personal information and even photos routinely posted on the Internet.
These registries are meant to inform the public. But do the practical costs of registration outweigh the benefits? Recent studies suggest that at least with regards to teen offenders, the answer to this question may be yes. Teens are often charged with relatively minor sexual offenses. Many are convicted of illegal sexual activity after engaging in consensual acts with teens near to them in age. However, they are often forced onto registries and the consequences can be catastrophic.
Depending on how much of their personal information is aired, former teen offenders may be subjected to repeated harassment, discrimination and even homelessness as a result of their presence on these registries. When they age and commit to family life, they may be prohibited from playing with their own children at parks or attending any events at their schools.
Certainly, the public has a vested interest in remaining safe from harm. However, many former teen offenders branded after relatively minor and even consensual sexual acts are punished for life as a result of registration requirements. If they are deemed to pose no likely future threat to public safety, perhaps it has become time to take these former teen offenders off these lists.
Source: CNN, “Report: Registry does more harm than good for teen sex offenders,” Emanuella Grinberg, May 1, 2013