By Gregory Yee….
Last week’s S.C. Supreme Court ruling that juveniles convicted of certain sex crimes must be registered for life on the state’s sex offender registry is drawing outcry from attorneys and researchers.
The opinion, issued Wednesday, upheld a family court ruling on an April 2013 incident in Spartanburg County in which a 14-year-old sexually assaulted a 5-year-old. The teen was found delinquent for committing first-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor.
Under state law, anyone, regardless of age, who is convicted of or found delinquent under that charge, is required to register as a sex offender and wear an electronic monitor, both for life. Juveniles are treated the same as adults under the law.
Prosecutors applauded the ruling, saying that some young offenders are beyond rehabilitation and need to be monitored, but other attorneys and researchers say the lifetime registry makes rehabilitation difficult if not impossible.
Brandt Rucker, the attorney for the juvenile identified in court documents as Justin B., said the family is deciding whether to pursue further legal action.
“It’s impossible to rehabilitate you if you’re on the registry,” Rucker said. “My view is that there’s a better way to treat juveniles. When you place them on these lists, no matter how hard they try, they can never rehabilitate. We are simply asking for a system where judges have a say.”
The attorney said he is not criticizing the court, but he thinks officials have to consider whether juveniles like his client pose a future risk to the community.
Brenda Jones, executive director at the National Association for Rational Sexual Offense Laws, echoed Rucker’s sentiment, calling the registry unjust and ineffective.
As for Justin B.’s case, Jones added, “Let him serve the time, which he deserves, and then let him get the treatment he needs and become a productive member of society,” she said. “You’re not preventing crime by throwing adults or kids in jail for a certain amount of time and putting them on a registry.”