Wednesday, February 17, 2010

TN Lawmakers Debate Juvenile Sex Offender Registry Lawmakers Debate Juvenile Sex Offender Registry.

Nashville, Tenn. - Sex offender registries alert residents that there could be a criminal in the neighborhood. The registry is designed for adults, but there is a debate on Capitol Hill on whether teen offenders should be added.

"Shouldn't victims be notified? Shouldn't they be told? Even though this person, who was 14 years old, committed a violent sexual offense against a small child," asked State Rep. Barrett Rich. Some who work to rehabilitate juvenile sex offenders say no.

"I am just appalled that somebody could murder someone and no consequences after they do that, but here's somebody that has the potential to get better, and yet we are going to stigmatize them for 25 years," said Dr. Valerie Arnold. Dr. Arnold testified before lawmakers 85 percent of sex offenders can be rehabilitated.

"If we feel like somebody is a risk to community, we don't discharge them. We would notify the courts, DHS, the sheriff's departments. We have a duty to warn, and we clearly believe that," said Arnold.

If Tennessee does not create a juvenile registry, the state would not be in compliance with federal laws, meaning the state could lose out on $5 million in grant money. The grant money would go to law enforcement agencies all over Tennessee.

The juvenile sex offender bill passed out of committee on Wednesday. Lawmakers will debate the issue again next week.
Representative Maggart's bill would call for 14 year olds through 18 year olds convicted of rape or attempted rape to go on a juvenile sex offender registry.