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April 10, 2016

"Don’t Just Get Kids Off the Sex Offender Registry. Abolish It"

A helpful reader alerted me to this article which has the title I have used for the title of this post.  I think these excerpts captures some the themes of this lengthy article: 

A focus on the juvenile sex offender — or any juvenile offender — has potential upsides. It invites audiences to see a whole person and a complex situation and to empathize with the person who has done, or been accused of doing, harm. The invocation of childhood, and its suggestion of innocence by reason of immaturity, can spread sympathy more widely to whole communities harmed by the carceral state, particularly when kids are secondary victims of parental incarceration and systemic “civil death” or disenfranchisement.

Coverage of the JSO often unpacks the category of “sex offender” — pointing out that it includes convictions for sexting, public urination and consensual sex between minors, as well as violent rape and the abuse of children; it can expose the uniquely harsh treatment of all these people by the U.S. criminal justice system and the public. These stories point to the youthful offender as collateral damage in a regime of indiscriminate and ever-escalating penalties....

But there are also significant downsides to campaigns that construct children as exceptional and different from adults. The public may just as easily be left feeling that adults who break the law are bad and deserve all they get — or that guilty people do not deserve fairness or sympathy.  This gives legislators a rationale for trading off youth-friendly criminal justice policies for harder adult penalties, as recently happened when New Mexico legalized sexting between teens but increased penalties for people 18 and older sexting with people under 18.  Not just adults but some youth can be penalized by the focus on “children.” Call the person who breaks the law a “child,” and there’s a danger that any young person not demonstrably childlike will end up prosecuted as an adult.

Exclusive focus on the young offender — rather than a rejection of the entire sex offender regime — avoids the larger, less politically popular truth. “Sex offender registries are harmful to kids and to adults,” says Emily Horowitz, associate professor of sociology and criminal justice at St. Francis College in Brooklyn, and a board member of the National Center for Reason & Justice, which works for sensible child-protective policies and against unjust sex laws. “No evidence exists that they prevent sex crimes either by juvenile offenders or adult offenders.”

Such a strategy can invite a wider range of supporters, but it also can mean inadvertent acceptance or even endorsement of policies that are antagonist to justice for wider groups, if not for everyone. For instance, [Center on Youth Registration Reform] (CYRR) is collaborating with Eli Lehrer, of the free-market think tank R Street; he is also a signatory of the conservative Right on Crime initiative.  Flagged on the CYRR site is an article by Lehrer, published this winter in National Affairs, that argues for taking kids off the registry. But the piece also concludes that ending the registries would be “unwise” and suggests they’d be really good with a few “sensible” tweaks.  Lehrer also proposes hardening policies — such as “serious” penalties for child pornography possession and the expanded use of civil commitment — that data reveal to be arbitrary or ineffective and many regard as gross violations of constitutional and human rights.

April 10, 2016 at 05:07 PM | Permalink


Can you actually provide a reference showing that there are people listed for public urination?

I examined this after seeing it claimed about Texas but when I dug into the facts it turned out to not be the case. Certainly there were people subject to various parole/probation conditions normally associated with sex offenders (my understanding further being that the 5th circuit later ruled that these people were being subjected to those conditions illegally). However, on the specific point of the registry I was unable to substantiate the claim for charges of public urination.

I simply wonder whether this is a point that gets repeated for rhetorical effect without examining whether it is actually true, or if there are indeed states where such acts get people listed.

(The definitions for TX can be found at http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/CR/htm/CR.62.htm the closest to simple public urination is indecent exposure, but that has additional proof element required)

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Apr 10, 2016 7:07:43 PM


What a stupid question! Do your own work to prop up a POS House of Cards!

Posted by: albeed | Apr 10, 2016 7:47:45 PM

Some time ago there was a kid that had consensal oral sex with his 16 yr old girl friend.

Kid was 17 or 18 roughly. It took a federal judge to get him out of prison.

Yes abolish juvinille sex off registers.

Also there needs to be a better definition of what a sex offender is. Some guy who takes a whiz in a park and gets turned in, isnot a sex offender. Especially if there is a bar next door and it was 11:00 at night and the park has been closed for 4 hrs. Get real.

Posted by: MidWestGuy | Apr 10, 2016 7:50:24 PM

albeed ,

A single positive example (if someone has one, and indeed it would only take one) would be far easier than going through every U.S. jurisdiction and demonstrating that such an offense does not in fact land someone on the registry.

I only examined TX in particular after GFB repeated this claim (again, without citing to a specific person) in one of his posts a long while back. Failing there being such a specific example I do not see how pointing out that such offenses do not actually land people on the registry is in any way stupid.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Apr 10, 2016 10:42:32 PM

In a related aspect. The Dennis Hastert case compels me to favor a lie detector test being required for all politicians. They would be asked if they ever were perps against children. Impose this on priests too. If they fail the test then investigate.

Posted by: Liberty1st | Apr 10, 2016 10:56:04 PM

Doing a search of the title, found this: http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/04/08/dont-just-get-kids-off-the-sex-offender-registry-abolish-it/ which cites this:


I then did a search of "public urination and sex offender" and there were some hits. For instance: http://www.menshealth.com/guy-wisdom/you-might-be-sex-offender-and-not-know-it


The last one has a map. Texas is not included for public urination.

Posted by: Joe | Apr 10, 2016 10:56:15 PM

Reading the slate piece, though the introductory story turned out well I doubt you would find many people who would agree the basic fact pattern (an 18 year old and 14 year old)should not be criminal. Romeo/Juliet laws are one thing but that is a heck of an age gap.

The slate article specifically names Michigan but does not provide a case name and I have been unable to substantiate the claim by looking through the Michigan statute (the Michigan Compiled Laws site is much more of a mess than the Texas site, not providing either links or simple names to cross-referenced statutes .

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Apr 10, 2016 11:56:55 PM

I think you'd find a decent number of people who would question two high school students having sex being a criminal act. The guy just turned 18; that's a senior in high school, maybe even a junior in the guy was left back. 14 can be a someone in 9th grade.


And, it isn't just illegal -- the concern is a sex offender registry.

There's a map -- it's not just Michigan; that's just mentioned in the main text. But, I did a Google search again, this time "Michigan public urination and sex offender registry." Again, various things came up. One early link:


Notes the law is somewhat unclear but basically turns on what specific crime you are charged with when caught. But, even the reference to "indecent exposure" cited before can be a fairly trivial offense if it isn't merely a misdemeanor or such but being required to be on a sex registry. If someone is drunk and urinate in public, it is not farfetched that they would fall in between the cracks here in one of these states.

The map on the Slate piece cites HRW as a source, leading me here:


(FN109 lists statutes)

Anyway, the point is that these laws draw in people who the average person probably doesn't think "sex offender." OTOH, if two high school students having sex seems serious to you, ymmv.

Posted by: Joe | Apr 11, 2016 1:22:43 AM

In Kentucky, we have recently had a horrible situation where a 15 year old boy was prosecuted and convicted in juvenile court for statutory rape, for having consensual sex with his 13 year old girl friend. The boy's young defense lawyer (3 years out of law school) made an unconditional guilty plea for the boy. Upon conviction, the boy was placed on the Kentucky Sex Offender Registry for life. He was removed from his parents' home and placed in a state juvenile facility.
In Kentucky, the age of consent is 16. The girl was not charged with statutory rape (or any other crime), although she had engaged in the exact same conduct. Although there are 2 years of difference in their ages, the young couple are only one grade apart at the same school, where they had been dating for 2 years before they decided to explore sex together. Their trysts occurred at the girl's house, when she invited the boy over for sex while her parents were away. Many lawyers believe that there was no crime at all, since both participants are younger than the age of consent, 16. Kentucky's statutory rape statute implies, but does not expressly say, that one of the participants must be 16 or older, and the other 15 or younger.
The defendant's conviction in juvenile court was affirmed on direct appeal. His application for discretionary review was denied by the Kentucky Court of Appeals. The Kentucky Supreme Court granted discretionary review. The case was briefed, and oral argument was held in February 2015. In it's March 17, 2016 opinion, the Supreme Court vacated and remanded to the Circuit Court to dismiss the appeal. See, "B.H., a child under eighteen v. Commonwealth of Kentucky", No. 2013-SC-000254-DG (Ky. March 17, 2016)(slip opinion). The concurring opinion by Justice Cunningham makes powerful arguments about why this boy is not guilty of any crime, or, if he is, then so is the 13-year old girl, who was not prosecuted. He plainly would like to reach the merits of the case, but cannot do so, because of the unconditional guilty plea below. Under Kentucky law, the defendant's unconditional guilty plea waived his right to file any appeal at all. This defendant (now 20 years old) is stuck on a Sex Offender registry for life, unless some attorney will step forward to file a Motion for Habeas Corppus (a Civil Rule 11.42 Motion, under Kentucky practice), based upon ineffective assistance of counsel at plea bargaining (failure to make a conditional plea, to preserve issues for appeal). This case cries out for redress and justice.

Posted by: Jim Gormley | Apr 11, 2016 9:42:34 AM

The term "sex offender" gets thrown around too easily.

Sexual predators, those who intentionally hunt and carry out violent sexual acts against someone else, are far different from the 17 and 18 yr olds dating and fooling around in the back seat of a car or the 25 yr old who downloads adult porn from a p2p website and unwittingly finds kiddy porn thrown in.

Until we end the "lets paint everyone with a broad paintbrush" mentality, nothing will change.

The registry serves no purpose. Offenders serve lengthy sentences and then continue to be penalized by a registry that prevents them from finding housing, a job and relationships, etc. There is no empirical evidence that it keeps anyone "safer". If anything, the registry puts those on it as well as their families at risk of vigilantes who buy into the government's BS about who's a sex offender.

Posted by: kat | Apr 11, 2016 10:07:24 AM

The hysteria of a particular crime which is not totally defined is in itself a crime. It has been noticed that sexual crimes are the hardest to defend against, look at the IMF leader that was accused of raping a chambermaid. They could not have gotten him out any other way!

It is also the easiest money for the "Justice system" in which they use the emotions of the jury members instead of the facts. Prosecutors are lazy, fail to investigate and fail to show evidence.

Common sense is out the window when a elementary child kisses another elementary child and it is called "sexual assault". Where are the teachers who are supposed to teach, where is the principal (we used to be sent to the principal's office if there was any misconduct), and what are the parents doing to teach their children right from wrong?

Teenagers used to be teenagers and had to be taught right from wrong or suffer the consequences - now they are sexual predators.

Best of all, our Court System that goes along with this nonsense must be ignorant!

Posted by: LC in Texas | Apr 11, 2016 6:20:32 PM

couldn't agree more with LC's sentiment especially his last sentence

Posted by: life is not for wimps | Apr 12, 2016 8:04:34 PM

Yes i am totally agreed with this article

Posted by: dewandari | Apr 22, 2016 4:06:33 AM

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