Crimes that involve a sexual offense are among the most serious of which a person can be accused. In the most serious cases, a person can be required to register as a sex offender for the rest of their lives. This registration places a person’s name and information about their offense in a publicly searchable database, which may significantly affect their ability to obtain employment as well as their reputation in their community. While this registry can serve an important function in terms of keeping the public safe and alerting people to the presence of a sex offender, critics of the system often argue that the registration requirements may often entangle people who no longer pose a threat or whose underlying offense did not rise to the level that a registration requirement should be triggered.
Earlier this year, the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission (IIJC) released a report in which it outlined apparent issues with the state’s treatment of juvenile sex offenders, and issued recommendations as to how the system may be changed. According to the report, juveniles who are determined to be delinquent for sex offenses by the Juvenile Court have adult consequences imposed upon them, including sex offender restrictions and registration requirements. In addition, these consequences are imposed without taking into account factors such as the juvenile’s age at the time of the offense or offenses, their current level of risk, or clinical recommendations.
In calling for reforms, IIJC points to research and data indicating that youth sex offenders are highly amenable to treatment and are often unlikely to reoffend. Furthermore, the state’s current practice of requiring youth to register as sex offenders does not seem to enhance public safety and may actually undermine rehabilitation and the well-being of all parties affected by sex offenses committed by youthful offenders. The commission makes three specific recommendations, which are as follows:
- The creation and implementation of professional best practice standards along with current, objective, and evidence-based training for professionals who work with youth sex offenders and victims.
- Allow courts and communities the latitude to effectively intervene with individualized, community-based, family-focused services and supervision.
- Repeal the sex offender requirement for youth offenders as well as the additional restrictions and collateral consequences that are currently imposed.
If these recommendations are adopted, it would significantly change the way that an adjudication of delinquency would affect young sex offenders. In addition, it would allow courts to exercise more discretion when determining to what consequences a young offender will be subjected.
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