When a Pittsburgh boy named Drake was charged with a sexual offense against another child, a judge put him in a program that keeps offenders in their homes and runs on the assumption that children are not miniature adults and that most first-time juvenile offenders will not become adult sex criminals, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. That is counter to the trend in much of the nation, where many jurisdictions are seeking tougher sentences for juveniles and the ability to treat them like adults. “There is a very strong current that sex offenders are sex offenders and they don’t stop,” said Dr. David Kolko of Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic. People hear about the most sensational cases — “mostly adults, mostly heinous crimes,” said Kolko. “That makes people very, very disgusted, as they should be. It’s hard to tell the public ‘You should be comfortable.’ They shouldn’t be. But a young offender is not the same as a 35-year-old pedophile. That means not taking it lightly, but not equating them with adults.”
The vast majority of juvenile offenders don’t go on to be adult offenders, and most first-time offenders are never arrested for another sexual offense, Kolko said. A total of 228 children have been referred to the program he has run since 1998. Of the 163 juveniles who consented to research follow-up and have now been discharged, three were sent to a juvenile facility for disclosing a prior or a new sexual offense; another 21 were sent to a facility because of nonsexual offenses or for violating probation terms. Of the 106 juveniles that the program has been monitoring for two years after their discharge, two (1.9 percent) have been adjudicated for new sexual offenses, and three (2.8 percent) for non-sexual offenses.