Attorney Catherine Carpenter serves on the board of CA RSOL. She spoke at our 2013 conference. Catherine has published a new paper dealing with the practice of putting our children on the sex offender registry. She states, “It is about the deeply flawed and inherently unjust practice of making children as young as ten register as sex offenders for life. It is a subject that fills me with anguish and anger.”
Throwaway Children: The Tragic Consequences of a False Narrative
Catherine L. Carpenter
Southwestern Law School
December 29, 2015
Truth be told, we are afraid for our children and we are afraid of our children. The intersection of these disparate thoughts has produced a perfect storm. We have created increasingly harsh sex offender registration schemes to protect our children from sexual abuse. At the same time, fear of our children ensnares and punishes them under the very same laws that were designed to protect them. Yet, what compels action is premised on a false narrative that includes flawed studies on recidivism rates and misguided case decisions that embraced these findings.
In this article, I explore the inherently unfair and deeply flawed practice of mandatory lifetime registration for children who commit sex offenses. Examination reveals two fallacies in a system that condemns children to lifetime monitoring: the breadth of its ensnarement, and the presumption of a child’s continued sexual predatory behavior. Fueled by emotional rhetoric, both are tightly bound in a fundamentally false narrative that is unnecessary and wholly damaging for the child registrant.