January 8, 2015

Offensive offender list

1-8-2015 Pennsylvania:

Kids do stupid things. And sometimes they do stupid things that are criminal.

But unlike adults who commit a crime, we don’t subject kids to the same consequences, which sometimes can be harsh and life-changing. We take into consideration their immaturity and the likelihood that a young person’s behavior can be altered via counseling, oversight and education, and we cut them a break.

Their crimes, unless heinous, are considered in a courtroom sealed from the public so their identities are protected. Likewise, the records of those proceedings are sealed so that wayward kids once back on the right track are protected from the damaging stigma of a criminal record. Simply put, they get a second chance. Sometimes, a third and fourth.

This is unlike the way we handle adult offenders. Set in their ways and so prone to re-offend, adults are dealt stiffer consequences and under the harsh glare of the public spotlight. This includes jail terms followed by sometimes lengthy periods of parole with restrictions intended to protect the community. Sex offenders, for example, can remain listed as such for the rest of their lives and be forced to report their whereabouts to authorities.

In 2011, this philosophy was extended to juvenile sex offenders 14 and over in Pennsylvania under a statute that keeps them on a state police registry for at least 25 years. During that time, they are required to submit their address, place of employment and school to police four times a year.

If that doesn’t sound unreasonable, consider that a 2013 report compiled by the Pennsylvania Juvenile Court Judges’ Commission found that only 2 percent of juveniles who committed a sex offense went on to commit another sex offense. Then there’s this: While the juvenile registry is only accessible to law enforcement, the National Council on Crime and Delinquency reports it is not uncommon for information on state registries to leak out.

It’s why we welcome a recent state Supreme Court decision striking down the law on the basis that it unfairly treated teens like adults. The court did not break new ground. In 2012, the Ohio Supreme Court struck down a lifetime registration requirement for teen sex offenders there. The Missouri Legislature took similar action in 2013, though the governor vetoed the measure. And that same year, Maine lawmakers decided against establishing a teen sex offender registry.

It turns out the Pennsylvania court is on the vanguard of this issue, an uncommon position for any branch of Pennsylvania government.

Look, we’re not succumbing to a follow-the-crowd mentality on this issue. Nor are we advocating going soft on teen sex offenders. Their victims deserve justice, and that justice should be swift and harsh. But locking teens onto an offender list for much of their adult lives, when the fact is only a tiny fraction re-offend, is not fair justice. The judges got this one right. ..Source.. by Courier Times

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