In Pennsylvania, juvenile sex offenders who are found guilty of committing or attempting to commit, or solicitation or conspiracy to commit the crimes rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse or aggravated indecent assault, and are at least 14 at the time of their offense, must register as juvenile offenders. Their names are on the registry from 25 years to life.
Their names and locations are not made available to the general public, but are given to local police and school authorities.
However, said Marsha Levick, Deputy Director and Chief Counsel for the Juvenile Law Center, Philadelphia,"anyone can ask their police department and obtain the information. There is no penalty if the police release it."
Pennsylvania legislation adopted on Dec 21, 2012, requires all juveniles convicted of certain offenses to register for life, regardless of whether they were tried as juveniles or adults, she said.
The law also requires any juvenile who was under court supervision at the time to also register, regardless of when they committed the offense.
"They may theoretically petition to be removed from the registry after 25 years, but must have an absolutely clean record or they will be denied," Levick said.
While many people might agree that police and educators should know there's a juvenile sex offender in their communities or schools, some experts believe the registry does more harm than good in helping young offenders turn their lives around.
According to a recent study by Human Rights Watch, several other studies have shown that juvenile sex offenders, whose crimes range from touching another child's genitals on top of clothing to exposing themselves in public to rape, are the least likely of adjudicated children to re-offend as adults.
"Youth sex offenders on the registry experience severe psychological harm. They are stigmatized, isolated, often depressed. Many consider suicide, and some succeed. They and their families have experienced harassment and physical violence. They are sometimes shot at, beaten, even murdered," the study says.
"Youth sex offenders on the registry are sometimes denied access to education because residency restriction laws prevent them from being in or near a school. Youth sex offender registrants despair of ever finding employment, even while they are burdened with mandatory fees that can reach into the hundreds of dollars on an annual basis," the study says.
"Youth sex offender registrants often cannot find housing that meets residency restriction rules, meaning that they and their families struggle to house themselves and often experience periods of homelessness. Families of youth offenders also confront enormous obstacles in living together as a family often because registrants are prohibited from living with other children," the study says.