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Cruel and Unusual: The Case Against Registering Kids as Sex Offenders

[Impact Justice]

America’s kids have racked up some big wins in the nation’s most august court. The victory lap began in 2005 when the Supreme Court banned the death penalty for juveniles. (Roper v. Simons, 543 U.S. 551 (2005).) In 2010, the Court barred mandatory life without parole for juveniles, except those convicted of murder. (Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48 (2010).) Two years later, the Court eliminated this exclusion, reasoning that a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of release violates juveniles’ constitutional protections against “cruel and unusual punishment.” (Miller v. Alabama, 132 S. Ct. 2455 (2012).)

The justices’ decisions in these and other cases were based in large part on a body of research that has established important cognitive and other differences between children and adults, especially in the areas of reasoning and impulse control. (See, e.g., Kayla Pope et al., Developmental Neuroscience and the Courts: How Science Is Influencing the Disposition of Juvenile Offenders, 51 J. Am. Acad. Child & Adolescent Psychiatry 341 (2012).) These studies provide a sound empirical basis for concluding that juveniles are less blameworthy for their criminal conduct than adults, and thus less deserving of the harshest punishments.

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  1. AlexO

    Registering kids is certainly cruel. They either don’t really understand what they did is wrong, or in the cases mentioned in the article, didn’t really do anything wrong, and absolutely would not have been aware that what they did would be frowned up to this level.

    But lets not gloss over the fact that the same issues these kids are effected by equally translate over to adults having to register. Being 18+ at the time of the offense certainly doesn’t make things any easier to live life.

    For a nation that hangs its hat on how just it is, we certainly has a lot of cruelty directly backed by the government.

    • C

      I agree with most of your comment, but you lose me at the idea someone is glossing over problems faces by adults on the registry. This article is about kids on the registry and why it’s a bad idea. The whole rest of this site is dedicated to adults on the registry and related hardships.

      BTW – I’ll bet it’s a hell of a lot harder on a child than an adult for the same reasons I wish it could be me that’s sick instead of my little ones when they take ill:
      I understand what’s happening to my body and a lifetime of development has taught me how to cope, be patient and look forward to being well again.

      • David Kennerly, Thank you for not confusing me with John Wayne Gacy

        The question is “is it more damaging to kids to be on the Registry than adults?” and I think it almost certainly is but, on the other hand, if the question is “are the people who would put adults on the Registry less cruel than those who would put kids on the Registry?” (although usually the same people) and I think the answer is “maybe a bit but not much.” They’re pretty much the same cruel, petty, ignorant and vindictive people and their sadism cares little for the ages of their victims. Unless they’re completely stupid then they will realize that their willingness to torment the very class of individuals they purport to be so concerned with (kids) gives lie to their stated motives. If they possess this level of sophistication and self-awareness then they may take a position limiting the damage or duration to which the child Registrant is subjected although their motives may well be more for reasons of public relations than for genuine human decency.

        • C

          What is more cruel, killing a 5 year old child or a 75 year old man?

          There is the answer.

      • kind of living

        as an adult on the registry for a good many year , my kids / wife are on the registry that have committed no crime , not only damaging to the adult but the family as a whole , I know you feel this being a parent , because our children deal with much the same stigma as a child on the registry for a crime , “the problem ? the registry as a whole dose no good for anyone , am I anti police ? No , am I anti law ? NO , I am anti Bad policing , and Anti Bad unconstitutional laws , and putting kids on any registry for any reason is not only bad law , but it is plain for all to see that these laws are not put in place for the reasons that are pumped into the walleyed public that “most” are no victims at all , NO they by far are mostly people that want more drama in there live that’s hands on rather than watching life time and Nancy Grace with her pin headed hate slanted / victim grooming saint hood , not ever talking about treatment , or forgiveness , or how the “Victim” can move on , I would give 100bucks just to peak in her closet , she is just like the rest of the fools pushing this agenda of punishment as opposed to treatment based ideals for children and adults to help not just the victim but the persons they will turn into victims because of the system not willing to open the doors to preventive treatment so the cycle can prevent , and even reverse this very troublesome problem , some one on here pointed out a program in Germany that people could go into with out even fear of prosecution , and the results are very interesting to say the least , but our country is focused on punishment /prison , even our kids ! the very ones they say they are trying to protect , well that’s not working ,, crime as a whole is rising , our opposition stand out with signs with rabid hate unchecked in their arm chair rally’s in front of courthouses , unchecked with nice warm secure housing and jobs , and most of us poor” lucky if we even have a roof , we need to pull together and grass root organize and not only put our message out as well as not make it so easy for our opposition at there chicken crap rally’s spreading hate and swaying courts out come for fear of loosing votes , many of us and our family’s are votes too , so go figure if our numbers are big enough we might really get the ball rolling in the right direction of not only ending the registry but push a message on humane tactics of handling the issue of the registry and working on ways to help all , rather than creating more victims on a never ending cycle of punishment , never helping anyone , they are not helping anyone with negative grooming of “victims” rather than helping them with coping , and why stop at helping the victim , why not help all , “open the door” to people that “may” / could / or did a crime and was not cot at least it shows their intent not wanting to crime , its better than most ways law uses intent ,,, do we want to arrest the person ? or the crime / problem? all kids are subject to be affected in one way or another by the registry , in no way is it positive ,

  2. Gralphr

    While it is indeed horrible that they want kids on the registry, is it any worse than making adults register, possibly for life, only to be be harassed for the rest of their lives? Is it right to have such draconian laws to the point of where the families of said offenders face banishment due to something out of their control? Is it right to continue punishing a man in his 60s for a mistake he did when he was 23? You don’t have to bring up children on the registry to see its cruel and unusual punishment for everyone regardless of the age.

  3. 18 and life as the song says

    Interesting people still think at the magical age of 18, everything is all adult and no longer child, yet adult can go under 18 or well beyond 18 depending on the person. Science does not agree with 18. 18 is based on schooling, nothing more or less.

    • Bobby

      I agree, 18 is just a number they throw out there in my opinion, I seen on the news not long ago that our brains are NOT fully developed into we reach the age of 25 yrs old. I confirmed this FACT with my brother-in-law who is a doctor. So are thinking is actually distorted until our brains are fully developed.

      So again 18 is just a number the powers that be came up with to satisfy the masses, now when I graduated in ’88 I was 19 only because of my birthday being on the 2nd of June and I graduated 10 days later, but again it’s that magic number that is always brought to everyone’s attention.

      • David Kennerly, Thank you for not confusing me with John Wayne Gacy

        What they don’t tell you is that life experience is crucial to DEVELOPING the prefrontal cortex and so this idea that we infantilize adolescents as a means to protect them from experiences which we imagine to be outside the capacities of a fully-developed prefrontal cortex (sex is that “danger” which most find especially convenient to castigate in the more pop psychological and dumbed-down version of the theory) may, in fact, be STULTIFYING a crucial phase of neurological development.

        What they are arguing for is no less than stunting normal human development in a way which, not coincidentally, conforms with their own cultural prejudices born, not from science, but from superstition and religion, except that now they can point to science and say “See! That’s why you can’t have sex!”

        We should not fall in to this trap. My thanks to Dr. Robert Sapolsky of Stanford University for pointing this out.

        • kind of living

          @ David ,,, great comment ! and thank you for the name of the doctor so I may study more in depth ,, because I was wondering about the people that so often fall between the cracks that don’t develop the same as others for what ever reason or age ,

        • C

          Just an FYI that I always enjoy your input on this board. I’m curious what you do professionally?

  4. New Person

    From the article:
    These studies provide a sound empirical basis for concluding that juveniles are less blameworthy for their criminal conduct than adults, and thus less deserving of the harshest punishments.

    Harshest punishments is alluding to the registry. Again, is the intent civil or punitive?

    • AlexO

      For anyone that’s not a Judge and a DA, it’s definitely viewed as punishment. But it’s the SCOTUS that we have to convince to see it like everyone else does.

      • New Person

        A collection of sources identifying the registry is punishment is an important record of logging. Recall, the SCOTUS needs proof beyond a doubt that the civil scheme is, in fact, punitive.

  5. AJ

    How can registries be cruel and unusual punishment for juveniles if they are not punitive? Last I checked, the governmental bodies all claim it’s merely civil. Civil is not subject to cruel and unusual punishment scrutiny.

    I so hope some judge holds it as cruel and unusual punishment…because then we’re at least all agreeing it’s punitive!

  6. C

    In reading this I had the horrible notion of my little boy, about to turn 6, being on the registry and ostracized at such a wonderful innocent age. In a way he and my daughter are ostracized without yet knowing it because we have elminated my participation in school events. Thank God, my closest childhood friends’ kids are about the same age as mine and they are “besties”. Today was the first day of school, the first day of many I will not share with them. It is heart breating to say the least.

    To think of my kids being on that web site? Forget it. They’d chase me to the ends of the earth before those government hacks come near them and I’d support the efforts of any parent who would hide and protect their children from such cruel insanity.

    To force anyone, especially children, to register is yet another indicator of just how screwed up this nation has become. We have completely lost our moral compas and lack a sense of direction and decency.

    Edit: It occurs to me that anyone advocating or engaged at any level of child sex offender registration should be charged with child abuse and punished accordingly.
    From the politician to the cop, from the web developer to the web host, they’re equally guilty.

    • AlexO

      I feel what you’re saying. I don’t have kids but I have a young nephew who’ll be starting school next year. I hate thinking that I’ll have to miss at least several years of his events because of this “regulatory” BS. It’s going to be hard trying to explain to him why I can’t come every time he asks. Especially as he gets older and starts understanding more and more.

    • kind of living

      @ C ,,, great points all of them , I feel every word and so did my wife , we applaud your strength , and strait foreword thinking , what ? go after the very criminals that keep this cycle of pain and shaming going , never done since the Nuremberg trials ,

  7. Harry

    The reality is that every kid has done some type sexual exploration on another kid, hence that every kid can end up on the registry.

    • C

      Are you kidding? I’d have been on the registry from age 4 along with my brothers and sisters and half the other neighborhood rug rats. Of course, that was back when the world was crazy and kids played outside riding their bikes w/out helmets until the street lights came on. Thank God order is being restored by way if public registries and toppled statuary.

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