Young Sex Offenders: Public or Private Knowledge?

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The national debate about kids who are convicted of sex offenses is under the microscope in St. Louis. Is it the public’s right to know who these kids are and does it justify the impact on a young person’s life for years to come?

As a juvenile, Michael Church was convicted of a sex crime. Now at age 22, Church is in jail again, accused of trying to lure two girls to his home, according to KMOV-TV. Neighbors and friends did not know about his past sex offense.

“My whole family is emotionally and mentally affected by this,” the mother of the girls told KMOV-TV. She wants a change in law to expose all sex offenders, regardless of age, so that parents can know.

In many states, information on juvenile sex offenders is only available to police.

As we reported this summer, the Adam Walsh Act mandated a national database for teens 14 or older convicted of aggravated sexual assault. Many states balked. In May, the Justice Department gave states the choice to exempt juvenile court cases. Georgia is one of 47 states choosing not to publicly register sex offenders who are kids.

Many feel that making juvenile crimes public could ruin a child’s chance at a future.

“Being on a registry can hinder access to the sort of re-entry and preventative services needed [for a child] to lead a stable life,” the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers points out in a 2009 article. Others feel that only those most likely to re-offend should be made public.

For KMOV-TV’s full report, click here.

More information:

Georgia HB 571: Sex Offender Registry

Adam Walsh Act

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