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Sex Offenders to Register Emails in Virginia 331

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the state-your-name-for-the-record dept.
Isaac Bowman writes "The Washington Post is reporting that Virgina has a proposed law that would require sex offenders to register their email and IM screen names in an attempt to monitor and control their presence on social networking sites like MySpace."
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Sex Offenders to Register Emails in Virginia

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  • Right (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rumplet (1034332) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @04:27AM (#17205404) Homepage
    because registering a new email address and IM account is so hard. Better still, get an .i2p email address.
  • lol (Score:2, Insightful)

    by quarrel (194077) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @04:28AM (#17205408)
    'cause, like, that'd work.
  • by timerider (14785) <lemmyNO@SPAMmegatokyo.de> on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @04:28AM (#17205412) Homepage Journal
    ...their gmail account and icq uin with the state, and then use their yahoo email and yahoo messenger for "other" things?
  • Yes, that is right (Score:4, Insightful)

    by James_Duncan8181 (588316) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @04:30AM (#17205424) Homepage
    There is such a large difficulty in getting new email addresses, nobody could concieve of a situation where not all would be registered! All this does is create yet another charge to lay on someone you want to imprison. The problem with this is that if they are grooming children/formenting terrah on yr kids/whatever, you already have appropriate charges. If they are not, it isn't an issue.
  • I know... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by thrill12 (711899) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @04:30AM (#17205430) Journal
    ...more than half the slashdot-population can find themself in the name "Virgina" (even when it's mentioned twice in the post), but I sincerely request the editors lay down their powdery-pipes and at least provide the decency to call the region "Virginia".

  • God damnit. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Spazntwich (208070) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @04:35AM (#17205462)
    Our lawmakers are idiots.

    Either the sex offender has served his time, or he hasn't. If you're worried about their recidivism rate, UP THE TIME SPENT OUT OF SOCIETY, DO NOT SEND THEM BACK OUT THERE IF WE'RE SO SURE THEY'RE JUST GOING TO REPEAT OFFEND.

    Seems simple, so why do these guys make it so complex?
  • by Elentari (1037226) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @04:40AM (#17205482) Journal
    Even if there were a way to ensure that all sex offender's screen names were recorded, this would only apply to people on the sex offenders' register, and doesn't account for the numbers of people allowed access to these sites who haven't been, and possibly won't be, caught.
  • Grand standing (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Fengpost (907072) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @04:40AM (#17205484)
    This sounds like some grand standing of a politician passing useless law to "protect kids". Anyone with a passing knowledge of the internet knows this is useless.

    Not only anyone can get any screen name and email address anyway they want it. Next thing you know, people will be setting up the "virtual neighborhood" off shore.

    This is one of those feel good law with some truthiness in mix!
  • by OneSmartFellow (716217) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @04:43AM (#17205496)
    ...of places where politicians have no clue about computing.
  • myspace innovation (Score:4, Insightful)

    by troll -1 (956834) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @04:43AM (#17205498)
    officials would turn them over to MySpace. The company, using new software, would then block anyone using that e-mail address from entering the site ...

    They mean new software like:

    if (user == sex-offender)
    then (drop)
    else (proceed)

    Won't they just, er, get another account? It's like CAN-SPAM deja vu. Must be election time.
  • Re:tracking?!? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mikesd81 (518581) <mikesd1@veri z o n .net> on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @04:47AM (#17205522) Homepage
    Ugh, it has to be mentioned I suppose.......they do still have rights. And I suppose some of them really do get reformed in prison. I'm not saying they should get rights of privacy (or at the risk of flamebait, the right to life after the undoubtful conviction), but in America, I suppose they deserve some?
  • Comments (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Antony-Kyre (807195) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @04:49AM (#17205540)
    My understanding is that sex offenders on social networking sites isn't a big issue compared to sex offenses that never involved the Internet in the first place.

    How is a sex offender defined? I'm thinking there could be a whole range of sex offenses, from minor infractions to major ones.

    If anything, if someone commits a major sex offense, then the judge in his or her right mind should consider removing Internet privledges. Wouldn't that stop the potential of the sex offender luring any more persons?
  • by Caspian (99221) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @05:00AM (#17205610)
    As a reminder, there are plenty of jurisdictions in which urinating in a back alley when no public toilet is available constitutes a "sex offense", and sufficies to have one placed on "sex offender" lists.

    Furthermore, making out in a car in a quasi-public place can likewise be considered a "sex offense", if I'm not mistaken, though in practice, the cops tend to crack down only on gay couples doing this. Correct me if I'm wrong.

    Sex offenders just ain't what they used to be.
  • Re:God damnit. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) <obsessivemathsfreak@ei r c o m .net> on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @05:01AM (#17205612) Homepage Journal
    Seems simple, so why do these guys make it so complex?
    Because in our society once you have served your time in prison you are deemed to have paid for your crimes.
  • Tacitus (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kahei (466208) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @05:04AM (#17205626) Homepage

    The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws.

  • by oman_ (147713) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @05:16AM (#17205694) Homepage
    sex_offender937123@hotmail.com
  • Devil's advocate (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Jugalator (259273) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @05:17AM (#17205710) Journal
    This is basically as I've said elsewhere...

    I'm not a sex offender and don't want to support those in particular, but juridically, I think these questions still need to be asked:

    - Why only sex offenders? Are other criminals not as dangerous? Do these not use e-mail?
    - What happened to jail penalties clearing them of their crime after it's over? Or do I misunderstand part of their intent?
    - How is this legislation going to be enforced? Will a sex offender willing to abuse kids be willing to register the mail address used for this?
  • Re:Comments (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Skrynesaver (994435) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @05:18AM (#17205716) Homepage
    To the best of my knowledge a far greater proportion of child sex abuse involves family members, individuals abusing positions of trust etc... Perhaps the solution is to outlaw gaurdianship of children, lock 'em all into a "safe" cage until they're 16, there may be a feral society problem, however if we had televisions providing non-stop "informative" programming they'd learn stuff I'm sure.

    The furore over internet child abuse is great for headline writers, the combination of two topics which catch peoples attention and of course legislators do love their headlines. I'm surprised we don't see more of this kind of cross-topic headline grabbing. Legislation to outlaw the use of

    • iPods to smuggle polonium
    • Segways by terrorists
    • ..
    Oh maybe the headline writers didn't take best advantage of the oppertunity presented by the recent "No luxury goods for short fat dictators" legislation
  • by Opportunist (166417) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @05:19AM (#17205720)
    Why make it so hard?

    Just paint the whole world map and wait for a sane law to appear and cross that country out. It's less work that way 'round.
  • Urban legend (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anne Honime (828246) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @05:31AM (#17205784)

    Statistically, sex offenders have a very high commit-it-again rate.

    Complete BS. http://www.livescience.com/othernews/060516_predat or_panic.html [livescience.com]

    For what we know, sex offenders are like other offenders ; many are just your once-in-a-lifetime (because they had oppotunity or whatever) type, a few are true maniacs in the medical meaning of the word. While the first type desserve a sentence, and don't need more attention than anybody else afterward, and probably less than a DIU convict, the latter type are mentaly ill persons, and they need constant medical attention instead of jail ; and they should be held in hospital until proven safe for release. Jail only prevent them from accessing adequate cure for their condition. The social pressure for a trial is in fact at the root of their early release (because neither a judge nor a jury is a qualified MD). This is medieval justice at its near best, if you don't count capital punishment.

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @05:32AM (#17205788)
    1) Because it's easy to push a law against sex offenders even after they allegedly "paid" for their crimes. With every other criminal, you could argue that they "paid" and that they should be left alone. With sex offenders, a simple "THINK OF THE CHILDREN" silences every opposition. Give it time, later the others are added when we got used to it.

    2) No. The legal system takes a sharp turn to revenge, not reintegration. Actually it's been doing that for quite a while now, I'm not even sure if it was even ever any other way.

    3) Not at all. But the idea seems to be that, when you have some case and someone is a suspect, you check his email activity and if he dares to have an account that's not registered you can already throw him back into jail and seize his equipment.
  • Re:waste of time (Score:3, Insightful)

    by zoftie (195518) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @05:51AM (#17205884) Homepage
    In religious freakout society, sex is taboo (still), so goes overreaction about it. Contrived motions to stop something from happening, usually cause greater harm as a whole, then positively contributing something positive to the society. IMO.
    2c
  • Paid in full? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AlpineR (32307) <wagnerr@umich.edu> on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @05:55AM (#17205906) Homepage

    Because in our society once you have served your time in prison you are deemed to have paid for your crimes.

    I hope you are being sarcastic. If our society deemed that serving prison time paid for crimes, then nobody would ever be asked "Have you ever committed a crime?" on job applications and no ex-con would have to register for previous crimes.

  • Re:Urban legend (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Fred_A (10934) <`fred' `at' `fredshome.org'> on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @06:01AM (#17205930) Homepage
    Mod++
    (no points, sorry)

    The amount of BS floating around on this topic is staggering. And the fact that mentally ill people are denied the attention they need is a major shame (this isn't a US only problem btw). Jailing them is simply stupid.
  • Re:tracking?!? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by name*censored* (884880) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @06:32AM (#17206060)
    There's a "Blue Card" system here in Australia (perhaps you have a similar system?); where anyone who wants to work with children in any way (even if its just driving a taxi that may or may not carry children) has to get one (which entails a full background check etc). Perhaps if you used said system and then treated ex-sex offenders like any other citizen (except for the fact that they are denied blue cards) then it would all work out OK.

    Having said that, it's not unreasonable (double negative is ok; reasonability is not black/white) to argue that since the risks and punishment associated with the original crime wasn't enough of a deterrant in the first place, there's reason to believe that there will be recidivism. I personally don't follow this school of thought, but it is a valid arguement.
  • Re:God damnit. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dwandy (907337) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @07:07AM (#17206214) Homepage Journal
    UP THE TIME SPENT OUT OF SOCIETY
    well ... perhaps because there is no coorelation between jail-time and not breaking the law ...errm, other than (I guess) not ever letting someone back out.

    The simple fact is that if locking people into a cage for a specified term were actually a deterrent then the US would have the lowest crime of any country anywhere (it is my understanding that the US has more %age of pop'n locked up than anyone else). Since crime in the US continues to be a terrible problem, perhaps it's time we began to look at alternates, like real rehabilitaion, meeting the victims, performing real restitution etc.

    Now before everyone freaks out, yes, there are still some that will need to be locked-up, but I'd suggest that in a healthy society that they are the exception. Let's face it: we're social creatures, and anyone of us that is anti-social is 'abnormal' and needs help and needs to be brought back into society to allow them to contribute.

    Locking criminals all together is just a way to ensure that they learn from one-another and socialise with other criminals making them even more anti-social relative to the rest of us...

  • Re:Urban legend (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @07:19AM (#17206292)
    Jailing mentally ill people is obviously the wrong solution to the problem.

    However, there are definitely repeat offenders that are not really mentally ill. Simply not agreeing to the rules of society doesn't make somebody a nut case. Sentencing should be broken into at least three cases:
    - Mentally ill: Treatment, perhaps some minimum time depending on the crime
    - First time / seldom: Short sentences, career counseling, community work
    - Repeat offenders / career criminals / serious crimes: Longer sentences, focus on rehabilitation possibilities. Keep them until they show a real interest in changing.

    The justice system (both in the US and increasingly in Europe) seems focused on punishing criminals just to satisfy society's need for revenge. Simply holding criminals in huge facilities with nothing to do other than socialize with other criminals is hardly helping them choose a different path. Often it shows that small-time criminals do much worse crime after having served time with hardened criminals.

    So please, start focusing on helping criminals get out of crime. Not just for their sake, but to society's benefit. Otherwise we might as well lock most criminals up for their entire life which seems to be the direction we're heading in. Sure, it's a solution, but a pretty sad one.
  • Bad, bad idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ajs318 (655362) <sd_resp2@eaRASPrthshod.co.uk minus berry> on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @07:37AM (#17206368)
    This is an ill-thought-through measure designed only to court acceptance from the public. Now that it's no longer politically acceptable to go after witches, blacks, jews or gypsies, sexual offenders are the current untermenschen -- somebody to whom everybody else can feel superior; and against whom no measure is unjustifiable, irrespective of whether or not it would ever be workable in practice and/or the extent of collateral damage it would create.

    Have you ever received junk mail addressed to a former occupant of your home?

    Have you ever been refused credit because of a bad debt run up by a former occupant of your home?

    I can answer yes to both questions. I've even received late-night faxes from abroad on my voice line, because my phone number used to be a fax number (the telco had run out of never-before-used numbers and so had to give me a recycled one; it had been out of service for over a year, but that didn't help against some overseas scumsucker with an out-of-date phone book).

    Now think of the way that information tends to hang around on the internet: somebody sees an interesting story, makes a copy of it on their website, the original goes away but the copy persists. Also, "sexual offences" cover a broad gamut. Legally there is no distinction between someone who has non-penetrative sex with a 15 year, 364 day old girl who managed to get into an over-18s bar; and someone who participated in gang-rape of a pre-school child. Being caught taking a leak in the street (in times when councils are closing public toilets, and bars and restaurants are erecting bogus "toilets are for customers' use only" signs [they're bogus because entering the premises for the purpose of using the toilet makes you automatically a customer]) is also deemed a sexual offence.

    Still think all this tracking of sexual offenders is a good idea? I know exactly why this man [google.co.uk] did what he did.
  • Re:Right (Score:3, Insightful)

    by 1u3hr (530656) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @07:45AM (#17206394)
    3. They're not always very smart -- they may not think of multiple IDs.

    When they find their registered address is blocked from MySpace, how long will it take even a not-very-smart pervert to work out he should get another one? All it's done is forced all the perverts to cover their tracks BEFORE they've done anything. About as useful as the No-Fly list. As if Osama bin Laden would book a ticket under his own name. But every poor guy called Mohammed is put through the wringer.

  • by TheVelvetFlamebait (986083) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @08:08AM (#17206522) Journal
    ...are that they're hard-coded to reproduce. And when that basic instinct goes wrong, it's bloody hard to reverse. If some guy wants children/animals/his sister/whatever else badly enough, no amount of jail time is going to change him. There doesn't seem to be an easy solution, except, perhaps, counselling to try to sort out the root of their sexual preference and perhaps help them to move on to more mainstream preferences. But then again, isn't this how we used to look at anyone who wasn't perfectly straight?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @08:15AM (#17206588)
    They could. But that would be wrong.

    Yes, and so was whatever crime they commited that made them a sex offender. Those that will try to do it again are the ones least likely to comply with the law in full. All this will do is help ostracize the ones trying to do things right from now on.

    Ars Technica had an article [arstechnica.com] about this also, here's a quote from it:

    While we understand his concern, Ars has received e-mails from sex offenders who feel completely rejected from society by such restrictions, especially when they have been put on the list for statutory reasons (generally, having consensual sex with a minor).

    That brings up two of the major problems with all this. 1. Many states have gone nuts with what they consider a sex offender, pretty minor things can land you on one, so the lists aren't useful any longer. Do you really worry that the guy living down the street was a year too old to have sex with his girlfriend and got hit with a statutory rape charge? 2. People who feel completely rejected by society often end up feeling they have nothing to lose. People who feel they have nothing to lose are more likely to commit a crime.

    We need some sanity in all this, this proposal simply isn't going to work, it's way too easy to get new E-mail accounts and IM accounts. We also should be worried about the unintended consequences the law may cause. Iowa passed a law not too long ago (I can't find the exact date, but the news articles are from March 2006, article at FindArticles [findarticles.com], same article at the NYT [nytimes.com]) that restricted sex offenders who had committed crimes with children from living within 2000 feet of a school or day-care center. This sounds somewhat reasonable at first doesn't it, they even restricted the class of sex offenders it applied to. Well it backfired, let me just quote this bit from the article:

    A new state law barring those convicted of sex crimes involving children from living within 2,000 feet of a school or day-care center has brought unintended and disturbing consequences. It has rendered some offenders homeless and left others sleeping in cars or in the cabs of their trucks.

    And the authorities say that many have simply vanished from their sight, with nearly three times as many registered sex offenders considered missing since before the law took effect in September.

    "The truth is that we're starting to lose people," said Don Vrotsos, chief deputy for the Dubuque County sheriff's office and the man whose job it is to keep track of that county's 101 sex offenders.

    So now they've lost track of many sex offenders they had track of prior to the law going into affect. Even if you think the sex offender registries actually help prevent sex crimes this is bad news.

    You have to ask yourself, what unforeseen side-effects will this Virgina law have? Might it make registered sex offenders purposely use multiple accounts and only report one? Might it make them more cautious about what they do and say online, making it harder to catch them before they commit another crime? We don't know, but I don't see how there's any benefits to this law, at best only the ones who are trying to not commit another crime will fully comply.

  • by Mr. Underbridge (666784) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @08:25AM (#17206658)

    The reason this law will be useful is it can't be effectively enforced. Are you going to require that convicted sexual predators are monitored 24/7?

    No, of course not.

    If thats the case why have this silly rule? It would take me, as others have said, 30 seconds to create a new anonymous email account.

    You're still missing it. There's nothing that will guarantee that you catch all pedophiles. It's a way of lowering the standard of evidence against a known pedophile. Let's say you get a transcript of a guy in a chat room talking to a kid, and he's careful enough not to say anything blatantly incriminating. But let's say it's a chat room the FBI does happen to be monitoring. If it's enough to raise their suspicion, but not enough to actually bring a case, they can trace the IP and see who the owner of the account is. If it's a pedophile using an unregistered email account, they can now press charges where they couldn't before.

    This also does nothing to protect against those who have not yet been convicted of sexual abuse. If the illusion of security is all you want, enjoy your dream world, but that will just make you less safe.

    Using that tired logic, we shouldn't have police either, because they won't catch every crime. Wouldn't want you to live in a dream world, right? This isn't meant to completely solve the problem. I'd say no law has completely solved any problem. It's really just another tool for law enforement to be able to more easily bring charges against recidivist but clever pedophiles. Just like tax evasion did with Capone.

  • Re:Right (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Tim C (15259) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @08:32AM (#17206696)
    I get the feeling that most people commenting on this article have no idea how laws and the criminal justice system work.

    No, you cannot realistically ensure that all registered sex offenders have a single email address/IM address/etc and that they register them. What you do do, however, is make it a legal requirement to register all your electronic contact details if you're a registered sex offender, then if you catch someone violating the law, you've something else to charge them with.

    This sort of thing is done all the time; to drag out an old example, it's legal to own a crowbar, it's legal to transport that crowbar from one place to another, but if you're caught in the act of burglary with a crowbar on you you'll most likely be charged with going equipped (or equivalent) because of it, as well as with burglary and anything else they can make stick.

    By your logic, registering your vehicle is stupid, as you can just change the plates. Do that though and get pulled over for something else, and you're in a whole heap more trouble. Same thing here - if a registered sex offender is found to have an address that they've not registered, they're for it.

    Now I don't happen to think that it's a good idea, but not because you can easily sign up for another account.
  • by voice_of_all_reason (926702) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @08:34AM (#17206722)
    Wait, so in this carefully-constructed example of yours, what the guy actually do wrong?
  • by trianglman (1024223) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @08:39AM (#17206758) Journal
    This isn't being put in place to monitor chat rooms. It may be used for this and may be effective, but I doubt it. As long as using that registered email won't prevent them from entering said chat room, they have no reason to not use the registered email. Unless they start flagging convicted sexual predators while they are online it won't do anything. But doing this would be no different than making them wear a scarlet letter in public.

    This law, at least as it is being marketed, is just being put in place to prevent sexual predators from getting accounts on myspace. In this respect it is useless.

    As to your second point, its not that the law won't protect against any sexual predators, its the fact that it is easy enough to get around that it will only restrict the rights of the "minor" offenders who are reformed, or who were wrongly convicted, or that sort of thing, but does absolutely nothing to restrict the ability for those that are dangerous to strike again, or to strike in the first place. In fact, if it gives a false sense of complacency, it makes it easier for them.
  • by Qzukk (229616) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @08:48AM (#17206870) Journal
    Probably easier than proving intent of kidfuckery.

    Good thing everyone on the sex offender list participates in kidfuckery, and not getting drunk and pissing in a bush or mooning your principal, or various other "sexual" offenses.
  • Security Theater. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kadin2048 (468275) <`ten.yxox' `ta' `nidak.todhsals'> on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @08:58AM (#17206966) Homepage Journal
    About as useful as the No-Fly list.

    Yep ... it's exactly as useful as the No-Fly List. Which does its job admirably.

    It's just that its job isn't what you think it is. The No-Fly List doesn't really have anything to do with keeping terrorists off of planes, because as you pointed out, even the most retarded Al Qaeda operative is probably going to think of using a false name. What it does do, is create a (arguably false) sense of security in the general populace, and make them think that their government is "doing something." This is its function, its raison d'être, just like most of the other post-9/11 government "security" measures.

    This registry is exactly the same thing. Nobody in their right mind can possibly believe that it's actually going to do anything to save children; it's a trivial requirement, one that if you're already OK with doing something illegal (like propositioning children), you're not going to have any trouble avoiding. But it's going to make a nice talking point for a few politicos, and help to create that 'warm, fuzzy feeling' in the hearts of the voters who are too stupid to see through it -- which is basically most of them, I've come to believe.

    When you see a government program that's failing horribly but yet still allowed to continue year after year, chances are it's not really failing; it's doing exactly what somebody wants it to do.
  • Re:Bad, bad idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pandrijeczko (588093) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @09:11AM (#17207070)
    Excellent post!

    Additionally, the whole paedophile issue is totally overblown anyway. Sure, paedophiles exist and when they're caught then impose the stiffest possible penalties on them - but the fact is that there are simply *NOT* hordes of them cyberstalking children on the Internet. Yep, there's a few wierd people out there but kids are a lot more at risk from bullying by their peers, whether on the streets or on the Internet, than they are from paedophiles.

    We have a legal system that is supposed to punish criminals to a point where they can be rehabilitated into the community when they have served a long enough sentence - this is no different whether they have stolen a car, burgled a house, murdered someone or committed an indecent act with a minor. If convicted paedophiles are released back into the community only to re-offend, then it is the legal and rehabilitation systems that need to be changed; this is no different to when a convicted burglar starts breaking into houses again.

    "Sex offenders registers" do absolutely nothing apart from giving small-minded people someone to feel superior over and to justify their behaviour as banner-wielding thugs - you only need to look at these people in news reports to see that they are probably not the sort of people who should be reproducing in the first place.

    Sure, have the legal authorities monitor rehabilited criminals but let them get on with doing that - for the rest of us, it really is none of our business what those who have "paid" for their crimes have done in their pasts.

  • by trianglman (1024223) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @09:24AM (#17207276) Journal
    It also gives providers and hosts (like MySpace) the ability to potentially subscribe to a list (a la Do Not Call) and keep them out.
    This would just be a "scarlet letter" like program online for people convicted of sexual crimes (remember that these lists don't just include pedophiles, or even violent crimes). Removing a person's ability to live because they were formerly convicted of a crime and have served their sentence is unconstitutional.

    It does keep pedos from striking again, in that it lowers the burden of evidence for law enforcement. But it doesn't do it in an effective way. It would take a pedophile that intends to strike again less than an hour to find out enough information about someone through a myspace account to cause harm. On the other hand, all those people blacklisted in the previous section would be unable to do things most people normally can (send email, use IM, share information with their friends on social sites like myspace, etc.) Setting up laws like this only serve to punish the "innocent" while allowing the guilty free reign.

    Yes, it is an extra conviction law enforcement can use, but the costs, both in liberties and actual money, are too great.

    What needs to happen are intelligent laws and accurate punishments for these convicts, not weak, easily circumvented laws like this. If the courts were better able to determine and punish convicts that are likely to strike again, that would do a much better job of protecting people than this stopgap.
  • Re:Urban legend (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jackbird (721605) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @09:32AM (#17207390)
    A major problem is that there are hardly any long-term inpatient psychiatric facilities in the country anymore. The deinstituionalization movement of the 1970s argued that long-term hospitalization was detrimental to most severely mentally ill patients (with good reason - see One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, etc.) They also argued that extensive community-based mental health services would better serve patients and society.

    Unfortunately, politicians heard the first part of the argument ("Great! We can stop paying for those state hospitals!"), but not the second part, or the part about "most patients". The result is a complete mess, with short-term inpatient facilities in medical hospitals serving as a revolving door for severely mentally ill individuals with no followup, treatment beyond crisis intervention, or continuity of care; and absolutely no options besides jail in most states for non-rich individuals who would be best served by long-term inpatient treatment.

  • Underlying Purpose (Score:2, Insightful)

    by blacknblu (988181) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @09:41AM (#17207522) Homepage
    I would really like to know the underlying issue that is driving this legislation. Not withstanding the numerous mechanisms around this law (as stated in previous posts), I don't think the Attorney General has thoroughly researched this issue. How do they intend on enforcing this law? This law (not unlike the majority of laws passed) is based upon good intention, but is destined for a miserable failure if the appropriate resources are not allocated to enforce it. The reasonable expectation of the public would be that registered Sex Offenders could not use a registered email/IM Screen Name in the commission of an offense. Does Virginia have the resources and budget to sustain this expectation? Unfortunately, this is becoming fairly common with proposed legislation. The individual (or group of individuals) proposes legislation based on a good idea, but with no feasible way of enforcement/support. If the legislation is rejected, the individual (or group) points the finger at the opposition (and in this case) could state that he/she doesn't want to protect the children. It's been a few years since I opted to leave the law enforcement field in pursuit of a paycheck, but I can't see how things have changed too much in my 5 year absence.
  • Re:Urban legend (Score:5, Insightful)

    by b0s0z0ku (752509) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @09:57AM (#17207768)
    But why should someone be branded for life if they sleep with a 17 year old? Are we to believe that she didn't know what she was doing when she lied about her age? I'm all for light rehab when needed, something in the ilk of "Look, you're 28 years old, good rule of thumb, make sure they can legally drink at a bar with you", and imprisonment of the true predators, but those are really few and far between. (If I had mod points, I would have just modded you way up.)

    Or judges and juries showing some common sense. A felony requires "mens rea" - essentially foreknowledge that you're going to do something wrong. If the girl *looked* over 18 (or whatever the age of consent was in the state since they vary from 15 or so to 18), then the jury should show common sense and acquit the defendant, especially if no harm is evident to the girl. Besides, the whole "marked for life" thing should be restricted (if it's used at all!) to serious sex offenses like forcible rape, sex with a small child (say, under 12) - things like that.

    -b.

  • by Sancho (17056) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @10:26AM (#17208192) Homepage
    Actually, the registry does a lot more than that.

    The registry allows sex offenders to be treated as outcasts for the rest of their lives. You see, people on the registry have to notify people--mostly local schools and other organizations that deal with children heavily--that they are moving in. Those organizations alert the neighborhoods, and everyone knows there's a sex offender nearby. Even if some people manage to miss the notifications, they can use free and easy online lookup services to find sex offenders in their neighborhood and shun them, even people who have completely paid their debt to society and are trying to build a new life for themselves.

    The registry is there so that rapists can be punished for the rest of their lives without having the state pay for them in prison.

    I think it's pretty awful. But then, we've got to think of the children.
  • Re:Urban legend (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dragonsomnolent (978815) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @10:44AM (#17208530) Homepage
    I also have children, and no I don't advocate youths having sex by any means, but if the girl lies about her age in the first place, why should someone be required to card them to make sure, and if they do card them, and the teenager is in possession of a false ID, should the "criminal" be branded a sex offender for life, I think not. The "criminal" in this matter had no intention of sleeping with an underage person. Even if the "molestor" is 30, if he has reason to believe the "victim" is of age, then why should he serve 5-10 years and be branded for life. I do think that a reasonable person could tell if the victim were 12, and they should be punished, but if a young woman were in a bar (where I live you have to be 18 to get in the door, 21 to drink) a reasonable person would assume she's of legal consenting age. As a father, I would be furious with my daughter for being there, but I would not jump on the "castrate the bastard" bandwagon. It does take 2 to tango, and if a 17 year old doesn't know the emotional ramifications of sleeping with an older person (especially if she lied about her age in the first place), that's the parent's fault, not the "criminal". And, as I pointed out, as did another in this thread, there is the whole intent thing. Note: I am merely talking about the 17ish crowd, not the young teenagers, any reasonable person should be able to tell if someone is under 16 (there is usually a gut feeling that they just seem too young)
  • by trianglman (1024223) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @01:12PM (#17211084) Journal
    urrently, sex offenders in many states have to disclose publically their actual physical address, including Virginia.
    True, but this information is not allowed to be used to keep an offender from using public facilities.

    Your argument seems to be that if we can't completely solve a problem, don't do anything about it at all!
    No, if you read my arguement, you will see that it is that this solution doesn't fix the problem any better than adding duct tape to a leaking dam will fix the dam. My arguement is that it will restrict the rights of too many people and do too little to actually solve the problem for a total net loss in effectiveness.

    Not the case. They would probably be prevented from using sites that are extremely kid-friendly.
    You mean kid friendly sites like Yahoo? Or kid friendly messaging systems like AOL? And where do you draw the line of kid friendliness? Most of the sites pedophiles seem to be cruising are used by anyone (claiming to be) 13 to who knows how old.

    I'm not seeing much monetary costs, since we're not talking about a monitoring system, just a database.
    Here is a link to the current budget for MS's current sex offender registry maintenance budget [mass.gov]. It costs them nearly 4 million dollars a year to make sure it is up to date. And that is for one maybe two addresses per offender. Imagine if they also had to maintain an untold number of emails as well. A database does no good if it is not maintained. It will quickly become just a random bunch of data that is unreliable. At the very least you will have to pay for the servers to maintain it, technicians to keep it running, developers to create interfaces for it, and bandwidth so it is accessible. Not to mention security measures to keep the wrong people from accessing the data and all sorts of other things.

    As for liberties, the right to live without big brother watching you evaporated when they molested a kid. Same for the ability to interact with kids in the future.
    Since when do sex offender registries only hold lists of pedophiles, any sex offender gets added to it. This would include pedophiles, yes, but also statitory rape convicts (22 yo has sex with a consenting 17 yo without his knowledge, wrong but not pedophelia, at least not intentionally) and other rape convictions (guy gets a girl drunk and takes advantage of her, still wrong, but still not pedophelia). These people don't have the same rate of repeat that pedophiles do, but they lose all the same rights.

    Like I said in a previous post, there needs to be legal reforms, but this is the wrong way to do it. There needs to be better ways to try and sentence these people before you try and remove all their rights. This is the very reason there is an amendment protecting people from cruel and unusual punishment. Unfortunately, in these cases, it is more often ignored.
  • by _damnit_ (1143) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @03:06PM (#17212750) Journal
    I don't think anyone is defending THEIR rights. My problem with the treatment of sexual offenders is the double jeopardy. The Supreme Court decided a few years ago that it was OK to keep sex offenders in confinement if it could be shown that they would "likely" offend again. What is so special about sexual offenses that the Constitution needs to be ignored? Why not keep drug addicts in prison until we can find a cure for addiction? How about the poor? Should we keep criminals in prison until the can prove they have solid plans to join the middle class? How much worse is viewing child porn than the white collar crime of stealing the retirement and pension plans from thousands of senior citizens?

    I have a child and family who have been victims of violent sex crimes. I also believe the AC above in that some of the predators committed crimes that could be thought of as worse than murder. Has everyone convicted of a "sex crime" committed worse than murder? Of course not. Those convicted of heinous crimes should be punished accordingly. The rest should be treated as the rest of America's criminals and not with some special distinction because the crime involved genitalia. Too many stupid laws are being written by pandering politicians because it's easy to claim they are "protecting our children". Violent crime is violent crime regardless of the motivation.

    If you believe that sexual predators are more dangerous than other criminals, the length of imprisonment should reflect that. Permanent tracking and ridicule seems to be counter-productive to rehabilitation but if that is what the community wants to do, include it in the sentences at conviction. Below is an excerpt from the NY Times in 2001:

    [Many] states have 'sexually violent predator' statutes that were enacted to keep potentially dangerous perverts off streets even after their sentences had been served; as of last year [2000], nearly 900 sex offenders around nation were locked away for indefinite terms; laws have withstood major legal challenges, including arguments that locking up criminal after he has served his sentence amounts to double jeopardy; United States Supreme Court has upheld laws twice; such laws are incredibly expensive, and cost only goes up as number of sex offenders committed in civil trials rises; in addition, such laws raise deeply troubling question: can prediction of behavior be good enough to justify locking someone away; given costs and legal troubles of such civil commitments, some states are exploring alternatives, such as longer terms of supervision for released sex offender


    The RIAA and the honorable senator from Utah predict that everyone on /. has stolen or will steal software, music and/or movies digitally. As such, you should all register with the government as copywrite criminals to be tracked. At least until all music, movies and software can be verified "genuine" in all formats.
  • Re:Urban legend (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dfghjk (711126) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @04:05PM (#17213680)
    "I'm sure the fact that I have children may skew my opinion in this matter."

    Haha, yes (and I mean that in the most respectful way). I, too, have an adult child and have been through this.

    The problem with your argument is that many areas of the country, and many countries around the world, recognize the age of consent at 17 or even lower. Just because a teen's thinking isn't fully mature (and that process continues for a long, long time) doesn't mean that he/she isn't capable of understanding the consequences of sexual consent. Perhaps laws could take into account the age of the partner, and they do sometimes, but I suspect the result would be too complicated to make good law.

    I think there's a clear difference between adolescents and children from a sexual standpoint and I think we are doing ourselves a great disservice in lumping sexual acts with near-adults into the same category with child sex offenses. Any 30 year old that has sex with a 17 year old may be offensive to you and to others, but it's clearly not the same as a 21 year old having sex with an 8 year old.
  • by vinn01 (178295) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @05:09PM (#17214768)

    I know a guy that's on the sex offender list for having sex with a 17 year-old. He was an 18 year-old at the time. I don't know who complained to the cops, but once the complaint was filed, he was duly busted and it went to court. They was no "she looked over 18" defense. That would have been laughed out of court. I don't remeber his sentence, but I know he landed on the sex offender list.

    They got married when it all blew over. They are living quietly and have two kids. But their neighbors would love to get them out of the neighborhood because he is still on the sex offender list. I know of one house sale that fell through because the prospective buyer didn't want his daughter living near a registered sex offender.

    Also, the sex offender list is polluted with domestic violence cases. Those guys don't belong on the list.

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