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A different kind of life sentence for young sex offenders: pt. 1

Last year the Supreme Court of the United States issued a ruling in Miller v. Alabama, holding that it is unconstitutional to impose mandatory life sentences without parole for juvenile offenders. Across the country state courts and legislators are working out ways to reconcile their laws with the Supreme Court decision, treating juveniles more fairly in the criminal justice system.

However, not all the news is good for juvenile offenders. Many are facing a different kind of life sentence. Human Rights Watch, an advocacy group, released a report earlier this month that could change the way some people view juvenile justice for crimes labeled sex offenses.

The report is called, ""Raised on the Register: The Irreparable Harm of Placing Children on Sex Offender Registries in the U.S." As the name implies, it focuses on how placing a juvenile on the sex offender registry can unfairly affect him or her for years, or even for life.

For example, the report followed one individual who was placed on a sex offender registry at the age of 11 for touching his sister without penetration. He was removed from his home, placed in foster care and his registration status became public when he turned 18. He eventually dropped out of college after being constantly followed by campus police. Now, 15 years after that conviction, his life is still defined by something he did as a child.

Even as an isolated incident, that would be unsettling. But it goes far beyond that. In our next post we'll discuss some similar cases and take a look at the justification for – and drawbacks of – registering children as sex offenders.

Source: The Center for Public Integrity, "Report details lives ruined for children put on sex-offender registries," Susan Ferriss, May 1, 2013

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