Section 7: The Legal and Legislative Response
1 Hour, 30 Minutes

Lecture TopicTOPIC: THE LEGAL AND LEGISLATIVE RESPONSE

Introduction

Use SlideUse Slide #1: Legislative Responses to Juvenile Sex Offenders

As we have already discussed in earlier sections of this training, there has been a sea change in recent decades in how the juvenile justice system is responding to youthful offenders overall, and to juvenile sex offenders specifically. Generally speaking, as you’ve heard already during this training, the juvenile justice system—originally designed as an institution that was supposed to rehabilitate young offenders—has become increasingly punitive in some ways and has moved toward a “treat juveniles like adults” philosophy. The system’s reaction to juvenile sex offenders is no exception, particularly with respect to legislative responses.

As the issue of sex offending has received increased media and community scrutiny, juvenile sex offenders have become caught up in a web of legislation originally designed for adult sex offenders—including registration, community notification, and civil commitment.

In essence, these laws were initially developed in the hopes of keeping close tabs on sex offenders, better informing citizens about the presence of these offenders so that they could better protect themselves, and protecting communities from the most dangerous offenders—laudable goals to be sure. However, the original federal legislation that created the registration and notification statutes did not provide specific guidance about how to apply these policies to juveniles. Absent such guidance, some states applied these laws uniformly to adults as well as to juveniles, perhaps without a full understanding of some of the factors we have discussed during this training regarding key differences between adult and juvenile sex offenders. So the dangers of a “one size fits all” approach to juvenile sex offender management apply not only to our treatment, assessment, and supervision approaches, but also to our legal responses to juvenile offenders, including around such issues as registration, notification, and civil commitment laws, all of which we will discuss in more detail later in this section.

Use SlideUse Slide #2: Goals

Goals

This section of the curriculum will help you to understand:

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