Many people in St. Paul would be shocked to read a story about a brother touching his sister’s genetalia. The idea of such behavior is hard for many people to process, but imagine if it was an 11 year old touching his sister. While this is still questionable behavior, many people may wish to use the incident as a teachable moment about appropriate boundaries. Unfortunately for the then-11 year old, he was charged with and convicted of sexual misconduct.
Beyond the criminal charges and the punishment, what has been the most devasting aspect of this ordeal has been his spot on the sex offender registry. Now 26 years old, the young man has never been able to escape from that one mistake. He was forced into foster care because he could no longer live in a home with children. When he turned 18 his status on the registry was made public. When he tried to go to college, he was the constant focus of police attention.
The idea behind the sex offender registry is that those on the registry are likely to offend again. Research, however, does not support the assumption that young offenders will reoffend. In fact, it is highly unlikely that a child convicted of a sexual offense will reoffend. The rate of recidivism stands at 4 to 10 percent, much lower than for adults.
What is worse is that there are numerous young people, teenagers and young adults thrown onto the sex offender registry, sometimes for life, for very minor things. Public urination? Streaking? Indecent exposure? All of these could potentially land someone on the sex offender registry.
Source: The Center for Public Integrity, “Report details lives ruined for children put on sex-offender registries,” Susan Ferriss, May 1, 2013