Tuesday, December 25, 2012

PA - In Adopting Punitive Sex Offender Law, Pennsylvania Takes Giant Step Backward in Protecting Children

Original Article


Today is a dark day for Pennsylvania’s children. After spending the last two years enacting a series of measures to improve how we treat our children, Pennsylvania took a giant step backward in adopting a punitive and unreasonable law incorrectly stigmatizing youth for life. Act 111, which goes into effect today, unnecessarily places certain juveniles on a lifetime sex offender registry.

Act 111 was enacted in response to the federal Adam Walsh Act, passed by Congress in 2006 (Video) after the high-profile abduction and murder of a child. States that do not comply with the Act are at risk of losing 10% of their funding under the Justice Assistance Grant program. The Act expanded the breadth of registration and notification laws for all individuals convicted of sex offenses. Most importantly, it subjects youth who are adjudicated delinquent to the same registration requirements as convicted adult sex offenders.
- Isn't using money to get someone to comply with your wishes, bribery?

The law casts a wide net, bringing into its reach children who do not in any way represent the adult child-predators it is intended to address. The law does little to improve public safety and ignores Supreme Court jurisprudence on treating juveniles differently. It disregards established literature on adolescent development. It mistakenly assumes that juvenile sex offenses belong in the same category as that of adults.
- The laws in general do not do what they intended, they sweep all ex-sex offenders into the "predator" group, and we all know that not all ex-sex offenders are predators, but that is what they are doing and they continually use the terms "predator," "pedophile," etc as if all ex-sex offenders are all the same.

It is well documented that juvenile offending—especially sex offending—is inherently different from that of adults. There is no empirical relationship between juvenile sex crimes and adult sex crimes. Juvenile sex offending does not predict adult sex offending. Over 92% of all individuals who committed a sex offense as a juvenile do not commit another sex offense. Kids tend to mature out of sexual offending behavior and are not likely to commit another sexual offense. Federal requirements in the Adam Walsh Act do not have a significant influence on recidivism rates.
- Not really!  Adults and children have a low recidivism rate.

Moreover, data overwhelmingly show that subjecting juveniles to long-term registration and notification policies does nothing to improve community safety, but does create unintended harmful effects on the youth themselves. Numerous critics, including law enforcement officials, have observed the unintended and punitive consequences that result when youth are enveloped in a law enforcement program designed for adults convicted of sexual offenses.
- The same can be said for adults, the laws do nothing to improve safety.

For those reasons, a number of states have rejected the Act’s funding incentives and excluded juveniles from their sex offender registries. These states have accepted the common-sense view that children are different and thus require different treatment under the law. Other states have taken measures to lessen the punitive effect of the law, while still remaining in compliance with the federal mandates; they hold that juveniles cannot be placed on a registry until after they have completed their rehabilitation in the juvenile justice system and the court holds a hearing to determine whether registration is necessary to protect the public interest.

The law that Pennsylvania adopted to comply with the Adam Walsh Act, however, requires registration by juveniles age 14 and older who are adjudicated delinquent for rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, aggravated indecent assault, or the conspiracy or attempt to commit one of those offenses, and who live, work or attend school in Pennsylvania. These youth must register for life on a non-public sex offender registry. The law has reporting requirements that are nearly impossible to meet and imposes adult felony convictions on individuals who are unable to comply.

Recently, in Miller v. Alabama, the Supreme Court struck down mandatory lifetime sentences for youth, stating its rationale as inapplicable to juveniles for whom the Constitution requires individualized determinations regarding criminal sanctions. The same rationale applies to so-called juvenile “sex offenders,” as registration is automatic and lasts a lifetime without an individualized determination of its necessity.

The three branches of Pennsylvania government have worked hard to repair the Commonwealth’s tarnished reputation for its treatment of children. However, in adopting Act 111, it harms the life chances of children, without any compelling reason. Kids are different.

1 comment :

Loneranger said...

The only way these laws were ever found the least bit constitutional was to avoid the word
If this has since evolved to a state that no longer can be seen as anything but punitive then they need to revisit the original rulings. the registry and all it's applications is unconstitutional if in fact it is punitive. Given they have cloaked this as regulatory to hide the facts. Have turned a blind eye to any study presented and blatantly lied to even get such laws passed. I would think it's long past time where this is should not only revisited but seen for what it is. Cruel and unusual punishment. If it is punitive it is punishment and beyond cruel. So where is the constitution when you need it? Where is equal protection under the law? Are the judges that rule that this is regulatory ignorant of the constitution or should they be removed from the bench as they can not be relied on not to sidestep and twist the constitution classifying things as regulatory and then allow states to rewrite the law they visited and add to it like a blank check. the idea of a registry used only by the police was regulatory when it didn't cause harm to the people that they registered in their opinion Thous ruled non punitive and could be applied retro actively. Now it has been proven to be punitive and not just regulatory we have laws that effectively remove constitutional protections to the point that people think that sex offenders have given up their constitutional rights. they have not and they have not been taken. Just that judges have not stood up for something that is so basic as someones constitutional rights and ruled as they should have. Now it's about the children that have been ensnared in this. Well they need to start unwinding this some way and to point out that this is punitive for juveniles means it's punitive for all and no longer regulatory.