Child Sex Offender, Now an Adult, Must Register
Should children ever be forgiven for mistakes that result from immature judgment? The trend in recent years has been to treat children as adults when they enter the criminal justice system, subjecting them to adult consequences on the theory that they deserve it for committing "adult crimes." That philosophy is tough on a kid who grows up and wants a fresh start in life. It's particularly tough when the kid may be branded as a sex offender for a good part of his adulthood.
Shawn Murphy was 13 when he forced his 11-year-old cousin to have sex with him. Now that he's turned 18, his name has been posted on Iowa's sex offender registry website.
"It causes a lot of problems and doesn't make much sense," said Gail Ryan of the National Adolescent Perpetrator Network's Kempe Children's Center. "With juveniles, we have pretty strong consensus in the field that we shouldn't be calling kids sex offenders when they're adolescents, when they're still forming their identities."
Juvenile sex offenders -- particularly those who have been through a treatment program -- are unlikely to become recidivists, but being labeled a sex offender may become a self-fulfilling prophesy.
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