saw increasing numbers of people seeking shelter.179 Miami provides just one example of a
community that is experiencing unintended effects of the residency restriction laws.
4. Implications for Juvenile Sex Offenders
An additional factor affecting the application of these laws is that many child sex abusers
are themselves juveniles. The Amie Zyla amendment to the Adam Walsh Act specifically applied
these federally-mandated registration provisions to juveniles over the age of fourteen at the time
they committed a sexual offense, which is a significant portion of the overall population of sexual
abusers.180 Some research has found that about one-third of known child sex abusers are
themselves juveniles.181 In a national study, other researchers found that twenty-three percent of
offenders who committed sexual assault were under the age of eighteen, and sixteen percent were
under the age of twelve.182 It has also been reported that forty percent of the perpetrators who
victimized children under the age of six were juveniles themselves, and juveniles perpetrated
thirty-nine percent of the offenses against children between six and eleven years old.183
These juveniles may receive different legal punishments than their adult counterparts,
based on juvenile sentencing guidelines, but they are still required to register as sex offenders and
are subject to the same registration requirements and restrictions as adults.184 Yet, some research
has indicated that treating youth sex offenders like adult sex offenders does not protect public
safety.185 Juvenile sex offenders are at a much lower risk for recidivism than their adult
counterparts and have the capability for comprehensive rehabilitation.186 Assigning the legal label
of “sex offender” to youth can create significant barriers to their rehabilitation by decreasing their
access to healthy relationships, stable educational and employment opportunities, and required
5. Mistaken Understanding of Recidivism Rates
The belief that child sexual offenders are “incorrigible predators” courses through this
first wave of legislation and is premised on the idea that recidivism rates of sexual offenders are
high.188 This view, however, is an over simplification, as the recidivism rate of child sexual
offenders is actually lower than that of most other criminals.189 The Bureau of Justice Statistics
tracked a set of prisoners released in 1994 and published a study about their rates of recidivism in
2003.190 The researchers found that of those convicted of child sexual abuse, only 5.1% were
arrested for another sex crime within three years of their release and only 3.5% were convicted of
180 Janus & Polachek, supra note 6, at 160–61; HOWARD N. SNYDER, NAT’L CTR. FOR JUVENILE JUSTICE, U.S. DEP’T OF JUSTICE,
SEXUAL ASSAULT OF YOUNG CHILDREN AS REPORTED TO LAW ENFORCEMENT: VICTIM, INCIDENT, AND OFFENDER
CHARACTERISTICS 8–11 (2000), available at http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/saycrle.pdf.
181 Finkelhor, supra note 17, at 172.
182 Janus & Polachek, supra note 6, at 159; SNYDER, supra note 180, at 8.
183 Janus & Polachek, supra note 6, at 160; SNYDER, supra note 180, at 8.
184 Janus & Polachek, supra note 6, at 161.
185 ILL. JUVENILEJUSTICECOMM’N, IMPROVINGILLINOIS’RESPONSE TOSEXUALOFFENSESCOMMITTED BY YOUTH 50 (2014),
http://files.sj-r.com/media/news/03252014JSOreport.pdf. “Youth are placed on sex offender registries usually for the rest
of their lives, with little or no demonstrable benefit to public safety.” Id. at 39.
186 Id. at 44–45. “Youth reoffend sexually at similarly low rates whether or not they are placed on a registry. . . . There is simply no
evidence in the research that registration lowers future risk of sexual reoffending among youth.” Id. at 44.
187 Id. at 45.
188 Finkelhor, supra note 17, at 172.
190 See PATRICK A. LANGAN ET AL., BUREAU OF JUSTICE STATISTICS, U.S. DEP’T OF JUSTICE, RECIDIVISM OF SEX OFFENDERS
RELEASED FROM PRISON IN 1994 1 (2003), available at
http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/rsorp94.pdf. This study tracked 9691
prisoners for the three years following their release from prison. Id. The study measured their recidivism by rates of re-arrest,
reconviction, and re-imprisonment during that three-year period. Id.