Female Youth Convicted of Sex Offenses: Public Opinion on Public Notification

AuthorShannon Johnston,Kristen M. Budd
Published date01 August 2021
Date01 August 2021
Subject MatterArticles
Criminal Justice Policy Review
2021, Vol. 32(7) 675 –692
© The Author(s) 2021
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/0887403421991902
Female Youth Convicted of
Sex Offenses: Public Opinion
on Public Notification
Kristen M. Budd1 and Shannon Johnston1
Throughout the United States, sex offender registration laws in many states and the
federal government have expanded to include juveniles. Once juveniles are registrants,
they can potentially be subjected to required or discretionary public notification (PN).
Given the documented detrimental effects of PN on juveniles and the prevalence of
sexual offending by juvenile females, this study investigated public opinion on applying
PN to juvenile females who were convicted of a sexual offense. Participants were
947 individuals recruited using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk who completed an online
survey. Multivariate logistic regression found support for PN increased when the
public felt law enforcement was effective in investigating these crimes and there
were increased public safety concerns. Support for PN decreased when the public
supported plea bargaining and supported the law distinguishing between adults and
juveniles who commit sex crimes. Implications of these results are discussed.
females, juveniles, public notification, public opinion, sex offender laws
In the United States, the 2006 Adam Walsh Act (AWA) changed the legal landscape for
juveniles adjudicated for sex offenses. Although the ultimate goal of the AWA (2006),
particularly Title I of the AWA, the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act
(SORNA), was to bring uniformity to the patchwork of state-level sex offender reg-
istration and notification laws (SORN), this federal legislation expanded SORN
requirements to include juveniles aged 14 or older who were adjudicated delinquent
for certain sex offenses. Originally, SORNA not only required certain juveniles to
1Miami University, Oxford, OH, USA
Corresponding Author:
Kristen M. Budd, Miami University, 375 Upham Hall, 100 Bishop Circle, Oxford, OH 45056, USA.
Email: buddkm@miamioh.edu
991902CJPXXX10.1177/0887403421991902Criminal Justice Policy ReviewBudd and Johnston
676 Criminal Justice Policy Review 32(7)
register but also to be subjected to community or public notification (hereafter, PN;
Harris & Lobanov-Rostovsky, 2010). As of 2011, states were granted discretion by
the Department of Justice as to whether they posted juveniles information on their
publicly accessible sex offender registry websites, one form of PN (Office of Sex
Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking, n.d.).
Contemporarily, at least 41 states require juveniles to register with law enforcement
(Lobanov-Rostovsky, 2015b). Thirty of those states either make discretionary or
require PN of these juvenile’s registry information (Lobanov-Rostovsky, 2015b).
According to Pittman and Nguyen (2011), juveniles convicted in an adult court are
most likely subject to PN regardless of their age.
Although the body of literature on public perceptions of the extension of regis-
tration and/or PN to juveniles has slowly grown over time (see, for example,
Campregher & Jeglic, 2016; Comartin et al., 2013; Harris & Socia, 2016; Kernsmith
et al., 2009; Salerno et al., 2010; Stevenson et al., 2009, 2013), investigation into
juvenile PN needs to continue due to the serious ramifications of PN itself (e.g.,
psychological harm, harassment, physical violence; Human Rights Watch, 2013).
The public does inform public policy, whether directly or indirectly, which would
be particularly pertinent for states operating under a discretionary PN system for
juveniles (Enns, 2016).
Second, evidence shows investigating the “generic” juvenile typically enhances
public support for SORN (Harris & Socia, 2016; Salerno et al., 2010). Therefore, this
research takes a gendered lens and investigates public perceptions of PN in relation to
juvenile females who are convicted of committing a sex crime. To date, only one pub-
lic opinion study has focused on females who commit sex crimes in relation to apply-
ing PN, but this research focused on adult females (Cain et al., 2017). Public perceptions
of PN for juvenile females matters, because evidence shows the prevalence of sexual
offending by juvenile females is greater than that of adult females who sexually offend
which potentially puts juvenile females at more risk to come into contact with the
criminal justice system (Cortoni et al., 2017; Puzzanchera, 2014; Williams & Bierie,
2015). In addition, because research has found females who commit sex crimes have
been treated more leniently in other areas of the criminal justice process, the public
may be less likely to support PN of juvenile females (CSOM, 2007; Shields & Cochran,
2019; Socia et al., 2019; Vandiver & Walker, 2002). This may be in part because
females who commit sex crimes have been seen as less harmful and less dangerous
compared with their male counterparts (CSOM, 2007; Denov, 2001, 2003, 2004). The
public may not feel juvenile females who have committed a sex crime require this
level of social control.
The Application of PN to Females Convicted of Sex
Cain et al. (2017) assessed public opinion on PN for adult females convicted of sex
crimes using the 2012 Nebraska Annual Social Indicators Survey. Of respondents who
answered the following question, “Should communities be notified of convicted female

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