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May 1, 2007

A juve break from the sex offender panic

This local article from Arizona reports on a new piece of legislation designed to soften the impact of severe sex offender laws when applied to juvenile offenders.  Here are excerpts:

Punishment will be softened for teens who commit certain sex crimes under a bill that awaits Gov. Janet Napolitano's signature.  After months of debate, with tearful testimony from families and hallway negotiations, a package of bills was combined into one measure that earned unanimous approval in both the House and Senate.

SB1628 requires that juveniles prosecuted as adults receive treatment with similar offenders and allows teens prosecuted as adults to have their cases sent back to juvenile court and their lifetime probation lifted.  "I think this is going to save a lot of kids' lives," said Sen. Karen Johnson, R-Mesa, who sponsored the bills and headed an interim committee on the issue....

Johnson and other lawmakers had been hearing from constituents for years who said their children were required to register as sex offenders and serve lifetime probation for fondling a family member or having sex with a younger girlfriend.  While the families didn't condone the behavior, they argued that the boys, some as young as 13 or 14, shouldn;t be prosecuted as if they were 40-year-old child predators.  They objected to the teens being placed in treatment with adults.  And they wanted them to have a better chance at getting out from under the harsh terms of lifetime probation.

The families were joined by judges, probation officers and others in the juvenile and adult court systems, as well as an unlikely coalition of conservative Republicans and Democrats.  They were opposed, however, by county prosecutors who argued in committee hearings that the teens they prosecute are predatory and deviant, not just succumbing to hormones or innocent curiosity.

May 1, 2007 at 10:37 PM | Permalink

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