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Younger and Violent Sex Offenders on the Rise

sychiatric Institute and Clinic.

The very fact that child offenders are that -- children -- means that they are still developing, still capable of change, Kolko said. They are often amenable to programs that steer them in the right direction.

Franklin Zimring, an expert on juvenile justice who is a professor at the Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California, Berkeley argues for a categorization of juvenile offenders into three groups. Of the 15,000 children and adolescents younger than 18 arrested for sex crimes each year, a small number are what he calls "sexual status offenders" -- teens involved in consensual sex whose behavior is unlawful because their partners are underage. Perhaps 1 percent to 4 percent is repeat offenders. And the rest -- somewhere between 70 percent and 95 percent, he said -- are first offenders involved in abusive conduct.

Robert Prentky, a psychologist and nationally renowned expert on sex offenders in Bridgewater, Massachusetts, thinks the statistics are misleading.

"There aren't more kids, there are more laws," he said. "We now have fairly draconian laws with very harsh sanctions that apply to juveniles."

The number of children under 18 accused of forcible rape, violent and nonviolent sex offenses rose from 24,100 in 1985 to 33,800 in 2004, the AP's analysis found. Violent offenses include attempted rape and sexual assault, while nonviolent offenses including fondling, statutory rape and prostitution.


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