When politicians can come out against sex offenders in some way, that's always a good thing for the press officer. The latest nice-idea-in-concept-but-how-do-you-enforce-it law comes from New Jersey, which joins Nevada and Florida in barring certain sex offenders from using the Internet, AP reports.
Offenders who contacted their victims via email or through social networking sites will have to let the State Parole Board know about their access to computers; submit to periodic, unannounced examinations of their computer equipment; and install equipment on their computer so its use can be monitored.
Failure to comply is punishable by a $10K fine or 18 months in jail. There is an exception for job searches and work use.
But if the parole board will be monitoring offenders' use, what is the point in the blanket prohibition against net use? The ban could be limited to social networks and other sites that allow interaction with kids and teens. Shouldn't offenders seek out online support groups, learn about sex addicts anonymous meetings, be able to rent a movie or buy a jacket? Since Megan's Law tends to limit offenders' movements around a community, it it fair to say an offender shouldn't use the Internet to attend an online class or edit a Wikipedia article or do legal research on his case?
“When Megan’s Law was enacted, few could envision a day when a sex offender hiding behind a fake screen name would be a mouse-click away from new and unwitting victims,” Assemblywoman Linda D. Greenstein said. “Sex offenders cannot be given an opportunity to abuse the anonymity the Internet can provide as a means of opening a door to countless new potential victims.”
But if anonymity is the issue, and the state can take away anonymity by requiring use of monitoring equipment, what is the purpose of the ban?