TN lawmaker calls for juvenile sex offender registry

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigations already maintains an adult sex offender registry, but if Tennessee Senate Bill 869 passes, there will be a list of juveniles, too.

State Senator Brian Kelsey sponsored the bill, now under consideration, which seeks to create a juvenile sex offender registry.

"This only applies for violent sexual offenses," Kelsey said Tuesday. "These are pretty heinous crimes."

Under the proposal, any teenager between 14 and 18-years-old, adjudicated guilty in juvenile court of one of the violent offenses spelled out in the bill, would have to register as a juvenile sex offender forever.

To get off the list, a person would have to petition the TBI as an adult.

"If they have not successfully shown the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations that they are no longer a threat to society, then I think we want them to stay on the list," Kelsey said.

Kelsey says the state of Tennessee receives $40 million in federal funding through the Adam Walsh Act, but the money is in jeopardy.

"The federal government has warned us repeatedly that if we do not pass this bill they will remove those funds from the state of Tennessee, because we're not doing an adequate job of protecting or children," Kelsey said.

But ultimately, Kelsey believes a juvenile sex offender registry is important for another reason:

"To protect our children by making sure that even 14 to 18-year-olds who commit violent sexual offenses will have to stay clear of children in our community," he said.

Kelsey said the bill is about protecting children, not offenders, but it may be amended to make the list private, so that only law enforcement has access to it.

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