The report begins with Jacob C., who was 11 years old when convicted of one count of sexual misconduct in Michigan for touching, not penetrating, his sister’s genitals. He was not allowed to live in a home with other children, was eventually put into foster care and was placed on a sex registry that was made public when he turned 18. He struggled to graduate from high school, and was shunned because of his registration status. And when he enrolled in college, he said, campus police followed him everywhere. He dropped out.
Now 26, the report says, Jacob’s life continues to be defined and limited by a conviction at age 11.
Another case in the report: “In 2004, in Western Pennsylvania, a 15-year-old girl was charged with manufacturing and disseminating child pornography for having taken nude photos of herself and (posting) them on the internet. She was charged as an adult, and as of 2012 was facing registration for life.”
Sex offender laws, the report says, “that trigger registration requirements for children began proliferating in the United States during the late 1980s and early 1990s. They subject youth offenders to registration for crimes ranging from public nudity and touching another child’s genitalia over clothing to very serious violent crimes like rape.”
Registries can also include “people who have committed offenses like public urination, indecent exposure (such as streaking across a college campus), and other more relatively innocuous offenses.”
The trouble with these and other “let’s do something, anything at all” laws is that they sweep into their orbit far more people than all but the harshest proponents intended. But once on, game over.