Stop Child Predators believes that the U.S. government must do everything within its power to protect children from sexual predators. In order to fulfill this duty, the sex-offender registration and community notification system needs to be strengthened by removing the federal mandate to include children on sex-offender registries.
Current federal law reduces Byrne grants to states that do not have laws mandating the registration of sexual offenders adjudicated as juvenile delinquent. As a result, 40 states maintain registries that include children. This is misguided and inconsistent with good public policy for at least three major reasons:
It undermines the registries’ effectiveness: At their best, sexual-offender registries provide a valuable tool to law enforcement to track truly dangerous sexual predators. A registry that includes too many people is likely worse than one that includes too few: it diverts resources toward monitoring low-risk people that should be devoted to monitoring the relative handful of truly dangerous offenders. The sexual reoffense rate for children who commit sex offenses is less than 3 percent, regardless whether they are placed on a registry. Resources used to track these offenders would be better directed toward serial pedophiles, child pornographers, human traffickers and others who present a real threat to children.
It wastes resources: A study conducted by the R Street Institute concluded that the practice of registering juveniles had negative long-term social costs that could be in excess of $600 billion.
It undermines the concept of our juvenile justice system: The juvenile justice system is based on the commonsense understanding that children lack the moral sensibilities formed by exposure to family, schooling and faith. As such, sanctions are limited and do not extend beyond offenders’ early 20s. Subjecting individuals potentially to lifelong sexual-offender registration for acts committed as a child undermines this concept. In extreme cases, all states but one currently allow the “worst of the worst” underage sexual offenders to be tried in ordinary criminal courts.
SCP believes the ultimate decision about nearly any criminal law ought to be in the hands of state legislators; however, we also believe that the federal government should not require or encourage states to engage in juvenile registration, given the manifest negative consequences. As such, SCP urges U.S. congressman and senators to work for repeal of all federal policies encouraging the registration of juveniles. We also support federal policies that give states, judges and others more flexibility in deciding which juveniles, if any, ought to be listed on sex-offender registries.
In 2017, SCP wrote an open letter urging Congress to amend Title I of the Adam Walsh Act’s Sex Offender Registration & Notification Act of 2006 to remove juveniles. Read the full letter here: 2017 Open Letter to Congress re Reforming Title I of the Adam Walsh Act.
reforming the way we treat child sexual offenders
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Professor Elizabeth Letourneau has devoted her life's work to changing how people view child sexual abuse. In her 2016 TEDMED Talk, Elizabeth sheds light on how initiatives targeting juvenile sex offenders can be the best method to help prevent future offenses. Letourneau's research supports SCP's effort to reform the way juveniles are handled in relation to the Sex Offender Registry.