PUTNAM COUNTY -- They are children who have committed serious crimes, and their victims are other children. And it's an epidemic, Juvenile Court officials say. They are talking about child sex offenders, children raping other children.
"We currently have three child rape cases on the Juvenile Court docket, and there have been so many of these cases in the past couple of years," said Greg Bowman, administrator of the Juvenile Court here. In the current three cases, which are unrelated, a 16-year-old boy is charged with two counts of rape of a child under 13, a 14-year-old boy is charged with rape of a child under 13, and a 17-year-old is charged with rape of a child under 13.
"Unfortunately, this type of case is becoming an epidemic, and the offenders seem to be getting younger all the time," said Juvenile Court Judge John Hudson. Asked for his opinion on the cause of this increasing problem, the judge said, "It's Internet access -- and the fact that the traditional family structure of the previous generations doesn't seem to exist any more."
Administrator Bowman said he finds Internet access and cable TV channel access play a big role in the problem, exposing children to sights and activities from which children used to be sheltered.
What about the parents of these children who are charged with sex offenses?
"Many seem to be in denial or unaware of what's going on with the children," Judge Hudson said. He said the problem of children committing these type offenses is much more widespread than it once was and said, "They come from all types of homes and socio-economic levels -- it's across the board."
What happens to these children in court? "They get evaluated for psychological and mental health issues, and we develop a treatment plan in each case," Bowman said. Some offenders are sent away to inpatient sex offender treatment programs which can last for months or years, depending on "the level of their issues," he said.
Some offenders react to being caught and brought to court in a "remorseful way," while others seem indifferent, he said. The cases come to the Juvenile Court usually through the investigative work of Child Protective Services and law officers assigned to work "all types of child abuse cases," Bowman said.
The purpose of the Juvenile Court is to rehabilitate children, but this court also has a duty to "protect public safety," he said. Children in court for any reason make a sad spectacle, but cases in which the victims are also children are doubly painful for those who work in this system.
And to see these cases continue to increase is a problem that Juvenile Court officials worry deeply about. "I don't know what the solution is," Judge Hudson said.
"The best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it strictly." - Abraham Lincoln