Sexual abuse is an especially heinous crime, and there's unwavering popular support for tough penalties. There's also increased evidence that public registries of convicted sex offenders may be doing more harm than good. Rehabilitation has become almost impossible for some 800,000 people, many of whom — including teen-agers — don't really belong on the lists. Is it time to re-visit laws enacted before the Internet blurred the lines between what's socially acceptable and what's a crime?
Nineteen-year-old Zachary Anderson is being released from jail today after serving 90 days for illegal sex with a 14-year-old girl. The girl and her parents agreed in court that she lied about her age on the dating app "Hot or Not." But that won't keep Zachery off the public registry of sex offenders in Elkhart, Indiana. His father lamented, "Obviously our son's life is, at this point, is ruined. He can't do the things that he wanted to do. He can't even live in our own house with his brothers, his siblings. And it doesn't make a whole lot of sense because he is allowed to come visit but he just can't actually reside there. You know, we taught Zach, you know, abstinence, wait for that special person. And unfortunately teenagers don't always do that, but I believe with all my heart that they don't deserve a lifetime punishment for something like this."
Maurice Chammah, Marshall Project (@MauriceChammah)
Roger Lancaster, George Mason University (@RogerLancaster)
Victor Vieth, Gundersen National Child Protection Training Center (@NCPTC )
Jeff Temple, University of Texas Medical Branch (@DrJeffTemple)
Chammah on the Abel Assessment, a sex-offender test
Gundersen Center's 'Sexual Offenders 101'
Temple on association between teen sexting and sexual behavior