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Thursday, April 8, 2010


It goes to show that the poor education of the South, States like Tennesee come up with very stupid ideas. (And I was only talking about White Southerners.)



Original Article


Adding young offenders does more harm than good

Our View

Except for taking a life, sexual assault of a child is the most heinous of crimes and rightly provokes the greatest degree of outrage and punishment from society.

But how should offenders be dealt with when they, too, are children?

A bill working its way through the Tennessee General Assembly would put the names and addresses of those ages 14-18 who commit violent sex crimes in a public, online registry. And while the primary goal of this bill — helping parents keep their kids safe from predators — is understandable, there is reason to believe the unintended consequences would outweigh the good it could do.

The juvenile sex registry that would be established under House Bill 2789 would function in a way similar to adult sex-offender registries, except that the offender could ask a judge to remove them from the registry within a year of their 19th birthday and every five years after that. If they committed no other sex crime, their name would come off the registry after 25 years.

Never mind that Tennessee law already allows juvenile judges to hand over violent teen sex offenders to adult courts and the adult sex-offender registry. The proposed juvenile registry would effectively put youthful offenders on a par with adult counterparts. This, despite the fact that the same good reasons for separate justice systems for adults and juveniles who commit other types of crimes apply here, as well.

Adolescents' judgment skills are not fully developed; if they were, there would not be laws prohibiting them from driving, drinking alcohol or buying tobacco. They are still under the supervision of others, whether their parents or other adults. Until they are individuals completely under their own recognizance, the impact of identifying them as a criminal to the public would be excessive.

There is a reason that the records of juveniles who commit other crimes are kept sealed or expunged if they commit no other offenses by the time they reach adulthood — because the potential for turning their lives around is much greater than if they had committed the offenses as adults. And that potential is jeopardized when a juvenile is branded for all to see.

A registry would end a teen's chance to become a productive part of society, because society would feel compelled to shun them even if they are taking the right steps, such as getting treatment for their behavior.

National statistics indicate that only about 6 percent of underage sex offenders who undergo treatment re-offend, compared to 35 to 50 percent of adult sex offenders. Mental health experts say this is because most youths who commit sex crimes do it for a different reason than adults: They were acting out against abuse they had themselves suffered at the hands of adults.

- 35 to 50 percent for adult offenders, really? The many studies I have here, show the adult recidivism rate is from 3.5% to around 12%.

Since juvenile courts in Tennessee already do a good job of getting teen sex offenders into treatment programs, a registry will do nothing to help them recover — not that it is intended to. According to bill co-sponsor Rep. Debra Maggart (Email), "If you have raped a child, you don't deserve another chance.''

- Just wait until her son or daughter is caught in the trap, then see how she feels about it!

History does not back up that attitude. While no civilized person condones rape, a society fails if it turns an offender into a pariah while hoping the problem goes away. This registry would put a target on these teens and their families. We should not fan the flames of retribution.

- The same goes for adult offenders. Treatment works for them as well, in most cases, and the same punishment applies to them.


"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin

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