This summer, 19-year-old Zachary Anderson was featured on the front page of the New York Times. Unfortunately, Anderson became a national figure after he was placed onto the sex offender registry — for making a simple mistake. Zachary had consensual sex with a 14-year-old girl, but she had led him to believe she was actually 17. When everyone realized this situation, Anderson turned himself in and served a 90-day jail sentence.
In September, The Atlantic reported on yet another story of a young person threatened with the registry. A 17-year-old in North Carolina is facing five counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, after he texted sexually explicit images to his 17-year-old girlfriend. Though their consensual sex is legal, it’s illegal for anyone under 18 to send or receive explicit photos with a cellphone.
As these instance show, simple mistakes can end up doing irrevocable damage to the lives of young people. According to ReformSexOffenderLaws.Org, these stories are all too common. Of the 800,000 sex offenders in the U.S., approximately 200,000 of them were added to the registry as minors. Full Opinion Piece