The Adam Walsh Act as Applied to Juveniles: One Size Does Not Fit All

Imagine a nine-year-old boy who is forced to watch pornography and who is subjected to uninvited touching by his relatives. For some, that is a nightmare, but for Tony Washington, that was his reality. When Tony was twelve, his father moved out of their house. After his father left, Tony’s mother struggled to make rent, and they were forced to move from home to home on numerous occasions. At sixteen, his mother had to work at two restaurants, and the closest thing Tony had to a family was his fifteen-year-old sister, Caylen. Tony and his sister were best friends. When they were younger, Tony would look after Caylen; he would help her with her homework and make sure she ate dinner. However, due to their unstable childhood, Tony and his sister had a hard time knowing the difference between right and wrong, and on two separate occasions, they engaged in consensual sexual intercourse.

On May 9, 2003, Tony pleaded guilty to having consensual sex with his sister. Tony did not know that what he did was wrong. Tony served one month in prison, spent five years on probation, and is now a registered sex offender for the rest of his life. As a sex offender, Tony can no longer live within 1000 feet of a school, has to avoid churches, cannot move without permission of a local officer, and has to inform his neighbors of his crime. Since this incident with his sister, Tony has not been in trouble with the law.

The National Football League’s (“NFL”) 2010 draft took place on April 22 and 23 of that year. The draft was supposed to be the turning point in Tony’s life—when Tony’s dream finally came true. Standing at six-foot-seven, 310 pounds, with shoulders the size of “canned hams,” Tony was a projected second round pick as an offensive lineman. Considering the draft is seven rounds, a player projected as a second round pick essentially has a guarantee that he will be drafted. However, both April 22 and 23 came and went without Tony ever hearing his name called. Why was Tony’s name not called? It had nothing to do with his football talents or anything that revolved around football. It did, however, have everything to do with the fact that he was a registered sex offender.

Tony Washington is just one of the many registered sex offenders who was required to register as a juvenile. As of November 2011, there were 747,408 registered sex offenders in America, and approximately one third of them are juveniles. Tony’s story illustrates the stigmas and difficulties that continually follow registered sex offenders as adults even when the committed offense took place when the offender was a juvenile.

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