These people did something at age 12 that the world will never let them forget.

Should we make sure adults never forget their childhood actions? I'm not so sure. File this one in the Things That Make You Go Hmmm file.

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Reed: I'm not a monster. I'm a person who made mistakes when I was a child, and I didn't even know what I was doing.

Mary Sue Molnar: We all want to protect children. Listing juveniles on the public offender registry doesn't protect anyone. Putting their names, and their faces, and their address on the public registry devastates the entire family.

Reed: We were playing with dolls, and the dolls were kissing. Then, we were kissing. Then it led to a little fondling you know over the clothes under the clothes. That was, that was it, but obviously that was enough to to convict.

Josh: I was twelve and she was eight. It was during the summer and I you know, experimented and did some things that I shouldn't have done, but I didn't know.

Reed: I didn't know the consequences. I thought something like this came with a grounding or a spanking. I was still that young. I've spent maybe close to eight years behind bars.

Child: Is that you?

Reed: This is me when I was young.

When you hear sex offender, you don't think it's a twelve year old little boy who was crying himself to sleep in a juvenile cell.

Nicole Pittman: Most people think if you're on a registry, you're definitely dangerous, but really the real fact about it is there is a broad range of offenses that can place a person or especially a child on the registry.

Reed: Where's your socks?

Elizabeth Letourneau: We all want to keep our children safe. The problem is that the laws are based on faulty assumptions. They're based on the assumption that children and adolescents who commit sex offenses are at high risk to commit more sex offenses. This isn't true. There are many studies, there's been over thirty that show low recividism rates for youth who have sexually offended. That's the main point of registration notification is to reduce sexual recidivism and that does not work.

Reed: I was a child. I was misunderstood. I did something wrong, yes. Punish me, punish me appropriately, but don't throw me into a den of lions.

Bruce: And I can understand paying some sort of price for doing something that wasn't right, but absolutely not have him put on the public registry and to have their names in all of the local newspapers. And then expect them to go to school and mingle with the other kids.

Nicole Pittman: The police will publish your information on the official website. In some states, they'll make mailers. They'll make fliers. Sometimes, it's lawn signs saying sex offender lives here.

Bruce: And all the neighbors were handed out pamphlets describing my son's in the house and where the sex offenders lived. Vigilante groups coming to my house. The molotov cocktail thrown at the house. The holes are still there around the bedroom window where the bee bee's went through the vinyl siding on the house. They were eleven and thirteen years old.

Nicole Pittman:A person on the registry, even if it is a person who is eleven years old, twelve years old, thirteen years old, cannot enter or live in zones that are frequented by children meaning a park, a daycare, a nursery, a school.

Josh: I found it hard to find a place to live. It's been difficult to keep jobs. I dropped out of college because of the registry. The registry also directly affects my own children, my wife. We have moved nine different times within the past three years. They've been in four or five different schools. That makes me feel like a horrible parent because I can't give my children what they need.

Bruce: No matter how hard they're trying right now in their lives to get their lives together, it's never going to go away. You just google up their names and up comes all of the sex offender information. For what happened when they were ten and twelve years old, is turning out to be a life sentence.

Nicole: This person has this label for the rest of their life based on something that they did when they were a child.

Elizabeth Letourneau: Juveniles should not be subjected to registration or notification. You know and the absence of any supportive evidence whatsoever that there's a community safety effect, youth should be protected from these laws.

There may be small errors in this transcript.

This thought-provoking video by Human Rights Watch is licensed by us here at Upworthy. We have a pretty stellar YouTube page you should probably spend some time with.

May 23, 2014

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