Internet Ban for Sex Offenders in New Jersey
Earlier in the year, New Jersey jumped on the GPS bandwagon with laws requiring some sex offenders to wear Global Positional Satellite devices that would allow for around-the-clock monitoring. Reports released in early December suggested that the program was successful.
And just last week, acting Governor Richard Codey signed legislation mandating that certain sex offenders observe a lifetime ban on Internet usage, according to reports from the International Herald Tribune.
The measure may seem drastic, but New Jersey legislators apparently consider the move a “necessary update” to Megan’s law, which requires all sex offenders to register with law enforcement officials. When the law was passed, Internet predators were a thing of the unimagined future.
But is the law too strict?
Sources note that offenders are permitted to use Internet resources for work-related research, that is, they can fulfill any online obligations required to complete or find a job. And the ban reportedly only applies to those offenders who have been labeled as in need of lifetime supervision or those who used the Internet in the commission of their crimes.
In addition to the restriction, the new law requires that sex offenders report their Internet access capabilities to the State Parole Board and allow law enforcement officials to conduct periodic inspections of their computer equipment.
If a sex offender affected by the ban is suspected of violating the terms of the restrictions, police are permitted to administer polygraph tests in order to gather evidence about the violation.
And the penalty for ignoring the new statutes is no small matter: those who break this law could face up to 18 months in jail or a $10,000 fine.
According to reports, the new law was inspired by the findings of a recent investigation of various Internet social networking websites, including Facebook.com and MySpace.com. Apparently, investigators found hundreds of profiles registered to known sex offenders.
The federal government has no laws on the books that limit the Internet use of registered sex offenders, and the only two other states with similar laws are Florida and Nevada. The Internet and other technologies expanding and improving at rapid rates often advance too quickly for legislation to keep up.
New Jersey’s aggressive action could mark the beginning of a trend across the United States.