House lawmakers Wednesday attempted to square the state’s sex offender laws with the prospect of what to do with juveniles who break them.
Fourth Circuit Public Defender Rob Mason argued before the subcommittee that trying minors in the adult justice system only makes it more likely that they will re-offend. What’s more, he claimed any children placed on sex offender registries become more likely, not less, to commit a similar crime again.
“Research shows that the re-offense rate of children who commit sex offenses is extremely low. However, the harm done by forcing a child to register for life – a juvenile sex offender, is great,” Mason said.
Mason cited a recent Human Rights Watch study that showed children as young as twelve were registered as sex offenders in 20 states. Florida’s Department of Juvenile Justice is currently one of only three agencies that can recommend a person be placed in the state’s sexually violent predator program.