The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) released its latest resolution regarding sex offender requirements for youth under the age of 18.
Research shows that placing youth on sex offender registries does not advance public safety and can actually make communities less safe. Research also shows that re-offending rates for youth who offend sexually are extremely low and that juvenile sexual re-offense risk assessments have been validated for predicting sexual re-offending.
“There is a growing body of research that indicates that for the majority of youth charged with sexual offenses registration requirements are more harmful than helpful—for the youth and for public safety,” said Melissa Sickmund, Ph.D., director, National Center for Juvenile Justice, NCJFCJ’s research division. “This resolution provides information and guidance to reduce, and perhaps even eliminate, sex offender registration for youth.”
The NCJFCJ recognizes that juvenile court judges have a responsibility to care for and protect youth within their jurisdiction, as well as to promote community safety, and therefore supports efforts to prevent youth from being placed on sex offender registries.
The NCJFCJ also recognizes that most youth have the capacity to change, particularly given that youth do not yet have fully developed and mature brains and neurological systems, and believes that they should be given an opportunity to change, even when they have caused harm.
“Children suffer irreparable harm from a lifelong label that limits education, employment and housing opportunities, and they are uniquely amenable to treatment and rehabilitation,” said Susan Vivian Mangold, Esq., chief executive officer of Juvenile Law Center. “Registration stymies that rehabilitation and interferes with positive self-development and growth. Juvenile Law Center is encouraged by the NCJFCJ’s resolution and believes it is an important first step toward ending the harmful practices of labeling children as sex offenders. The resolution’s emphasis on prevention and treatment as more effective at reducing sexual offending than maintaining registries demonstrates the NCJFCJ’s commitment to evidence-based practices. We applaud the NCJFCJ’s efforts and will continue to work toward elimination of sex offender registration for children.”
The NCJFCJ urges Congress to amend Public Law 109-248 to restore judicial discretion regarding registration in cases involving youth who were younger than age 18 at the time of their offense, so that such decisions can be made on a case-by-case basis and be guided by valid sexual reoffending risk assessments.
“A substantial amount of people who sexually offend have themselves, been a victim of sexual assault as children,” said Judge John J. Romero, Jr., NCJFCJ president. “We also understand that there are negative consequences to placing youth on sex offender registries, which include suicide, homelessness, difficulty attending school, unemployment, and an increased risk of being the victim of sexual abuse. The NCJFCJ will continue to educate judicial officers with relevant research and data to help educate and inform decisions for both the offender and the victim.”
For more NCJFCJ resolutions and policy statements, click here.
About the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ):
Founded in 1937, the Reno, Nev.-based National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, is the nation’s oldest judicial membership organization and focused on improving the effectiveness of our nation’s juvenile and family courts. A leader in continuing education opportunities, research, and policy development in the field of juvenile and family justice, the 2,000-member organization is unique in providing practice-based resources to jurisdictions and communities nationwide.