The juvenile justice system was founded upon the notion that children who commit acts that would be crimes if committed by adults are different than adults who engage in the same behaviors. This distinction led to the establishment of a distinct court system for juveniles that focused on rehabilitating youth rather than punishing them, with an ultimate goal of guiding them “toward life as . . . responsible, law-abiding adult[s].” However, recent federal and state laws that require youth who are adjudicated delinquent in juvenile courts to register as sex offenders are more punitive than rehabilitative, and actually can deter children who commit sex offenses from later becoming productive members of society. In State v. Williams, the Supreme Court of Ohio recently held that these registration requirements were punitive, and effectively admitted that Ohio’s juvenile justice system has been punishing juvenile sex offenders instead of rehabilitating them.
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