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July 22, 2007

NYT Magazine examining juve sex offenders

The New York Times magazine today has this cover story on juvenile sex offenders entitled "How Can You Distinguish a Budding Pedophile From a Kid With Real Boundary Problems?."   Here is a lengthy excerpt from a piece that merits a full read:

Juveniles account for about one-quarter of the sex offenses in the U.S.  Though forcible rapes, the most serious of juvenile sex offenses, have declined since 1997, court cases for other juvenile sex offenses have risen.  David Finkelhor, the director of Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, and others argue, however, that those statistics largely reflect increased reporting of juvenile sex offenses and adjudications of less serious offenses. “We are paying attention to inappropriate sexual behavior that juveniles have engaged in for generations,” he said.

The significant controversy isn’t whether there is a problem; it’s how to address it. In other words, when is parental or therapeutic intervention enough? What kind of therapy works best? And at what point should the judicial system get involved — and in what ways?

[Therapist Robert] Longo and other experts have increasingly advocated for a less punitive approach. Over the past decade, however, public policy has largely moved in the opposite direction.  Courts have handed down longer sentences to juveniles for sex offenses, while some states have created tougher probation requirements and, most significant, lumped adolescents with adults in sex-offender legislation.

The best-known example is Megan’s Law.  Since 1994, federal legislation has required many sex offenders to register with the police, which can aid sex-crime investigations. But Megan’s Law, which went into effect in 1996, mandates that law enforcement also notify the public about certain convicted offenders in their communities.  One of the ways states do this is through publicly accessible Web sites. At least 25 states now apply Megan’s Law, also known as a community-notification law, to juveniles, according to a recent survey by Brenda V. Smith, a law professor and the director of the National Institute of Corrections Project on Addressing Prison Rape at American University’s Washington College of Law. That means on many state sex-offender Web sites, you can find juveniles’ photos, names and addresses, and in some cases their birth dates and maps to their homes, alongside those of pedophiles and adult rapists.

Now that concept has reached the federal level. In May, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales proposed guidelines for the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act.... Among other things, the legislation, sponsored by Representative F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., a Wisconsin Republican, and signed into law by President Bush last year, creates a federal Internet registry that will allow law enforcement and the public to more effectively track convicted sex offenders — including juveniles 14 and older who engage in genital, anal or oral-genital contact with children younger than 12.  Within the next two years, states that have excluded adolescents from community-notification laws may no longer be able to do so without losing federal money.

In recent posts, Sex Crimes and TalkLeft note this NYT magazine article.

July 22, 2007 at 07:52 AM | Permalink


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I wonder how much of the increase is caused by idiotic decisions to prosecute like this:


One has to wonder what goes through the mind of a person who would decide to ruin the lives of 13 year old boys in such a manner.

Posted by: federalist | Jul 23, 2007 3:33:02 PM

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