December 2007

Sex offenders barred from using the Internet in NJ

Saturday, December 29th, 2007

The latest insanity: New Jersey legislators have decided that sex offenders will be barred from using the Internet. That’s not a joke: barred altogether — there is only a single exception for job searches. This is a major infringement of their civil liberties. Once a sexual offender is let out of jail, he does not get to live a normal life.

Here is a comment from Slashdot that rang true with me:

“Those who want to be soft on sex offenders are most likely not parents, and most definitely not parents of a child who has been abused.”

Wow, watch those strawmen fly!

I’m a parent, and I’m guessing that under your worldview, I want to be `soft on sex offenders’. But I don’t see it that way — instead, I want the punishment to fit the crime. If you’re 17 and have sex with your 15 year old girlfriend, you should be grounded for a week, perhaps have your cell phone taken away. Peeing on the side of a building? $50 fine. Rape a 3 year old girl to within an inch of her life? Life in prison, perhaps even the death penalty.

`Sex offender registration’ is a huge crock. All it really does is let us take some people, found guilty of certain offenses, and make them pariahs for life. I imagine the original premise was to protect society from these dangerous predators, but in many cases they’re not predators at all! And why only sex crimes? I’d be FAR more concerned if the guy next door killed his neighbor in a fight 10 years ago than if he got caught diddling the 16 year old girl next door when he was 19 — but guess which one has to register?

I might be better able to support registration as either further punishment or to protect society if it applied to all crimes of a certain level, not just `sex crimes’. But even then I can’t really support it — when you’ve paid your debt to society, that should be the end of it. And if you’re too dangerous to be let out, then you shouldn’t be let out — the sex offender registry should not be a `last ditch’ sort of thing.

And what good does the sex offender registry do? Sure, it gives people a list of names of people to harass, to run out of town, to lynch, to kill. And you can tell your kids to avoid these houses, but what good does that really do? Has anybody ever shown that knowing where the sex offenders in town were led to children (we’re worried about protecting the children, right?) who were less likely to be the victims of crime (or sex crimes, if you want to be more specific?)

And the whole banning them from the Internet thing, even worse …