Technology is moving at such a fast rate that state and federal laws are often years behind addressing some of the new problems that come up based upon new technological advances. One such problem are laws surrounding sex offender status, sext messaging and child pornography. According to statistics gathered by Impact Justice, a national innovation and research center, in 75% of the states, there are laws that still exist that “require children as young as 8 years old to be placed on sex offender registries, often for life, when adjudicated of what the courts deem sexual crimes.”
This pre-adolescent to sex registry pipeline began in the mid 90’s, corresponding to budding growth and development of the World Wide Web, smart phone technology, text messaging and social media. Keep in mind that many of these children are not registrants because of a sexual crime they actually committed, many of them are registered sex offenders based upon doing something as silly as pulling student’s pants down at school, public urination, sending a nude photo or sext messaging someone who happened to be underage. Even more problematic is the fact that many of these children are disproportionately people of color from impoverished urban environments without the finances to fight legal cases like this.
Consider the case of Bobby Garza who was registered as a sex offender when he was 11 years old for indecent exposure to a child. His crime? He and his brother were urinating outside, a girl saw them and reported that they exposed themselves to her. Bobby was placed in foster care and escaped until he was placed in a youth detention facility for the next 6 years. Upon his release when he was 17 he had to register as a sex offender until he was 27 years old. Feeling that this was unfair he refused to register and was sentenced to prison for 5 years.
These are many cases involving young people of color who have found themselves punished for unreasonably defined so-called crimes. Another issue is the fact that while the identity of juveniles involved in a crime are kept private, a juvenile convicted as a sex offender is publicly registered. One of the other growing concerns are recent cases involving hundreds of students posting and sharing nude photos in Facebook groups, on other social media networks such as Twitter and Snapchat and on the file sharing site Dropbox. The magnitude of this issue surrounding sex offender registry status, sext messaging and child pornography and how there is usually no legal precedence of how cases like this should be handled, and not be over looked.
Historically speaking, as with most legal precedences in this country, people of color from impoverished urban environments without the finances to fight these legal cases become the face of these often unfair judgments.
Every quarter of the year technology advances to create and update tools we use that many state and federal laws are far behind. Advocacy groups such as Impact Justice and the Center on Youth Registration Reform are leading the charge to not only end youth sex offender registration but educate the public about its link to suicide, juvenile delinquency, homelessness, mental health issues, alcoholism and drug abuse.
I encourage you to talk to the youth and look into workshops and information about internet and social media safety. Check out Impact Justice and the Center on Youth Registration Reform online to find out more about the legal cases and statistics involving youth sex registry. If we’re not on top of this and playing an active role to insure that we inform and protect our children, this system of creating mini sex offenders could be the next preschool to prison pipeline!
Saladin Allah is an Author [S. Quanaah], Preschool Teacher, Human Rights Commissioner in the City of Niagara Falls and Founder of the Atlantis School For Gifted Youngsters [Google #AtlantisBuild] who attended Central State University. Contact Saladin at: firstname.lastname@example.org