Young sex offenders branded forever

One of the scary things about the social Web is how much exposure its users bring to their everyday lives and innermost thoughts. But think about the impact of mixing exposure – to public view or just to law enforcement – with impulsive, unthinking adolescent behavior that involves sexual exploration with peers. For example, in the state of Washington alone, "since 1997, more than 3,500 children in the state – some as young as 10, though on average about 14 – have been charged and convicted as felony sex offenders, a mark that remains on their records forever, barring them from careers in medicine, teaching or a host of other professions that serve the vulnerable," the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports. A 13-year-old (now 23) whose story led the article was arrested at home by himself and handcuffed to a plastic chair while his mother was called and told her "pervert son was going to jail." The vast majority of these young felons are rated least likely to reoffend, the article continues. Even so, the Post-Intelligencer reports, "Washington is among the few states to include juveniles in its sex offender management plan, assessing youths with tools designed for adults and funneling them through the courts with adult-sized punishments."

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