Prosecution Is Not the Way to Save a 10-Year-Old Child

When children under 12 engage in exploitative sexual behavior, it is often a result of abuse or exposure to sex acts that they themselves have experienced. These children need mental health treatment and family interventions, not probation and blacklists.

Why then is the U.S. government prosecuting a young boy in federal court for behavior he engaged in when he was just 10 years old? The child, one of the youngest defendants ever pursued by the U.S. Department of Justice, is accused of engaging in sex acts with other young boys on a U.S. Army base in Arizona. Clearly, there are several children here who have been greatly harmed. But involving the criminal justice system in this sad story is likely to do much more harm than good. This is prosecutorial overreach, plain and simple.

This young boy was found delinquent on charges of aggravated sexual abuse against five boys between the ages of 5 and 7. As a result of his conviction, the boy was sentenced to five years' probation, including mandatory psychological treatment. Additionally, he must register as a sex offender in certain states. This label will follow him for the rest of his life: when he struggles to find an apartment that meets sex offender residency requirements, when he has trouble finding a job because of his registration status, and when he is forced to wonder whether he will face ridicule from neighbors, friends, and colleagues who discover he's a registrant. As the ACLU has argued, sex offender registration laws do not prevent sexual victimization and in fact make it harder for law enforcement to focus its resources on the truly dangerous individuals – all while ostracizing registrants and diminishing the likelihood of their reintegration into society. While the mandatory psychological treatment could help this child, the progress he makes may well be undermined by the consequences of having to register as a sex offender.

We struggle to understand how anyone could think that probation, followed by sex offender registration, is the only way to protect other children and save this child. Are these federal prosecutors so fundamentally misguided that they actually believe their actions are promoting justice?

Apparently so. Bruce Ferg, the U.S. Attorney prosecuting the case, stated that he believed that "this is the best thing that could've happened to the kid." He has asked, "What can we do with this child to make sure this doesn't happen again?"

We're glad you asked, Mr. Ferg. Studies show that adolescent sex offenders are more responsive to treatment, and that the overall recidivism rate for adolescent sex offenders, especially those who offend against young children, is relatively low. The truth is that there is no evidence to suggest that the only way to stop a 10-year-old boy from committing crimes is to subject him to the federal criminal justice system as a pre-teen and sentence him to a lifetime of discrimination as a sex offender registrant. One of the goals of our criminal justice system is rehabilitation, and this goal is even more important when the defendant is a child. There are better ways to help this boy than placing him under correctional control.

Fortunately, this child's fate may not be sealed yet. The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals is now reviewing his case, and the question on appeal is an important one. The statute under which he was charged bans sex acts with children under 12, but it does not specify how old the offender must be and provides no clear guidance regarding who is the victim and who is the offender when both parties are under the age of 12. The Ninth Circuit is evaluating whether this ambiguity makes the statute overly vague.

This case presents an opportunity for the Ninth Circuit to address fundamental problems underlying our treatment of juvenile sex offenders. Will we do what studies have shown works – treatment – or subject this middle school-age boy to a lifetime of unproductive correctional control? Given that child sex offenders are often victims themselves, treating them like victims, instead of like criminals, is the best way to help them recover and not offend again.

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Sex Offender Issues

We totally agree with this article. People should be given treatment, if possible, instead of a lifelong scarlet letter and punishment.

The very laws meant to "protect" children are ruining their lives, especially the children and family of those wearing the "sex offender" label.


It is too bad that sex offender laws have been allowed so much uninhibited growth in our society, or this witch hunt could have been stopped long ago. But few listened to activists like myself or took up the cause then.

How sick has our society become when someone in a position of power is so proud of prosecuting a kid and proclaiming this the best thing that could've happened to him?

Vicki Bee

I don't trust a damn decision being made by the conservative side of American politics, justice or WHATever else they're tying to pretend they care about these days.

If every last one of them thinks committing economic shutdown is perfectly sane to do, against the advice of every economist I know, then NOT EVEN ONE of them deserves their position and should be thrown out of politics and law-making positions.

They've fully and effectively given up all my trust in them. I'll never trust another one of them until this current BS is stopped and that includes prosecutors.

They make me sick to my stomach, and their decision to do this won't go unpunished no matter WHAT they think opposite to that idea.


I'm not surprised. This is the most illogical of court systems...

For example a parent reports abuse that their child discloses and the local court systems, cps workers, judges, and other such players remove the child from the reporting parent. I myself have tried to report to the ACLU about such matters and have only been ignored, trivialized. I feel it's shameful that the ACLU will pick and choose what civil rights it will defend.

What is more fundamental than the right to protect our children? What about freedom from prosecution? Who is supposed to help those in situations of abuse by authority where positions of trust and authority have been misused? When the evidence supports the accusations of color of law abuse, who is supposed to help?

Either you people are, or are not an organization to help people reclaim their stolen civil rights.

I myself say you are a political spoof. A gaggle of media hounds out to toot your own horn.

A frustrated mom


Obviously this child had been abused by someone. That is the person who should have been prosecuted.


Perhaps the ACLU should start a comprehensive investigation into the Monarch Program which is the continuation of MK-Ultra. Anyone can use a search engine and find some information.

The fact is that IF this goes as high as it does then it's not surprising that this happened to this child. How better to make someone susceptible to programs such as this?

If the ACLU truly cares about these issues then it would make any sacrifice necessary to bring down this shameful practice of abusing children to make them agents that carry out plans no sane citizen would engage in. I don't care if other governments are doing it. The answer is to fight it, not engage in it - period.


I try to post about something that is a real concern and is appropriate for this article and your site blocks it as spam?


WHO is the ACLU protecting here? This is truly sad and I will ensure I bring this up in other places.

Shame on you.

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