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Virtual Concentration Camp for Illinois Sex Offenders?

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Mike Doyle

Since 2005 scribe of the local blog, Chicago Carless. I invite you to visit.

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Today, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed a law making it illegal for sex offenders to use social networking sites. Is this a necessary ban to protect the state's children? Or a misguided move guaranteed to keep criminals who've paid their debt living on the margins of society?

As it stands, Illinois sex offenders must register their whereabouts for at least a decade--and in some cases for life, can live only in restricted locations, and are barred from many common jobs.

The new law further bars offenders from using popular services like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter--sites that hundreds of millions of adults (most likely, like you) use for professional networking and career development.

Given the existing draconian level of restrictions already placed on sex offenders after they've served prison time--and the responsibility of parents to police their children's Internet use--is it really necessary to bar an offender seeking to get his or her life back on track from posting a resume on LinkedIn?

It's reasonable for any crime victim and their friends and family, in Illinois or elsewhere, to call for the offending party to be locked away forever and permanently barred from the company of other humans. But is it always necessary? Or for that matter, just?

A maniac with a gun can shoot a child, leave them physically and emotionally scarred for life, go to prison for 20 years, get out on parole, and continue on with their lives. Right or wrong, it happens all the time.

So why do we treat sex crimes differently than other crimes of violence? Why is it only sex offenders who are shunned by lifelong additional legal means in every area of their lives after they've served the jail time that for even the most violent of non-sexual offenders would be considered enough of a punishment?

As Brian Boyer noted today on his Hacker Journalist blog:

This is bad legislation. Sex criminals have rights too, and this law effectively bans them from the Web.

I agree. When you get right down to it, follow the kind of reasoning that leads to laws like this to the all-too-obvious conclusion, you can interpret anything a sex offender does as putting a child at risk. After all, they breath the same air, are adhered to ground by the same gravity, and walk on the same earth as the people they've hurt in the past.

Why don't we just keep them out of grocery stores? Restaurants? Malls? Colleges? Off of sidewalks? Streets? Not just when they're withing 500 feet of children, but for all time? You know, just to be sure?

Or wait, I've got it! Why don't we just round them all up and kill them?

Because that's where laws like this lead. Take their rights as human beings away one by one until they have none left. And without rights, why feel guilty when some bone-headed politician calls for that kind of final solution?

This is not my Illinois. Neither this law, nor the de-humanizing direction in which it points this state.

You may think otherwise. I am beyond certain many of you do. There's a comments thread below.

Use it.

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13 Comments

frankalready said:

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well said, couldn't agree more. i'm glad that you and Brian have called this what it is, draconian and probably unconstitutional. how the hell are people supposed to re-enter society if they still have shackles on. laws like this, and allowing employers access to criminal backgrounds too, make it almost impossible for people coming out to have a normal life, making it that much more likely they'll end up back where they came from.

Jie Revorse said:

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This law makes the assumption the only reason a person would use a social networking site is to seek victims. That's like saying the only reason to open a bank account is to rob it. What are the legislators thinking? Truth @ www.oncefallen.com

annoyed said:

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I normally don't comment anywhere, but I am going to here. I am a register sex offender in IL and I am appalled by this law. I did not serve any jail time and I did a 2 year probation with counseling. I used FB, twitter and LinkedIn. I use them all. FB and Twitter for personal reason, but I use my real name, and i keep it to my friends. I am in my early 30's, so I am not some old creep prowling around to find kids. I learned my lesson. I use it to meet new age appropriate people. I have over 250 friends, and all are people I know. I also use Facebook and LinkedIn for my profession, and I rely on them for it.

I have been able to pull myself out of a deep hole I was in and become successful in my my field making over 100k. I have awesome friends and i stay away from falling back into bad habits, but here is the real point. I am using my real identity. I am not hiding. If I wanted to do something malicious I would have a fake name. Also, I am required to register all my internet accounts with the state annually when I register with my local police department. I have let them know I have the accounts, they can monitor my activity. So why must I be banned. Also, LinkedIn is a professional networking site, so I don't think it will be included in this law. Its geared for professionals over 18 yrs of age. Am I wrong in assuming this? There is nothing about it that is social.

But lets hit the bigger point. Most people that get arrested for sex offenses are new offenders. They lurk out there and have not been caught. Do some re offend yes, but if you require them to register the account with the state, and they do, do you really think they are going to use it for looking for a new victim. Some will be stupid but most wont.

So why don't these sites monitor there communication between people of inappropriate ages. If anything sexual is communicated between a user who is 30 and a 15 yr old, it gets flagged and reviewed by the site and turned over to authorities. Wouldn't that protect the children more? State officials should figure out proactive ways to protect people from those that aren't registered, because that is their biggest threat. Implementing a law like this will put a false sense of security with parents thinking they don't have to worry anymore, but that is totally wrong.

Could I live without Facebook, yes, but I am in touch with people from HS and college i would never have talked to again. I stay in touch with acquaintances, who I don't see all the time.

There are plenty of things wrong with the sex offender registration laws, but the lawmakers introduce laws that the public thinks makes them safer, rather then coming up with effective legislation that protects the kids. why not an age identification system required to sign up for internet sites, why not education of the children to report inappropriate activity to their parents?

just a few thoughts from someone who lives this on a day to day basis. It is a pain in the ass, and I do feel I am still be punished for something I did and served my times for. No other crime has to go through this. What about a person who was in a gang, someone who assaulted people, attempted murders, violent offenders, these people are more likely to hurt someone then a sex offender. I do not minimize what I did, but in my case it was a police sting and i did not have a victim, but I know how much this can hurt a kid if they are offended and I want laws that protect them, but also don't hind the rights I have a american citizen.

Mike Doyle said:

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Frank and Jie: Tthanks for your positive comments.

Annoyed: This passage of yours says it all--

"So why don't these sites monitor there communication between people of inappropriate ages. If anything sexual is communicated between a user who is 30 and a 15 yr old, it gets flagged and reviewed by the site and turned over to authorities. Wouldn't that protect the children more?"

Really good question. One Illinois Governor Pat Quinn should have asked before signing this knee-jerk, needlessly punitive law.

annoyed said:

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Whats even more stupid about it, is if you read what they claim to be a social networking site:

“Social networking website” means an Internet website containing profile web pages of the members of the website that include the names or nicknames of such members, photographs placed on the profile web pages by such members, or any other personal or personally identifying information about such members and links to other profile web pages on social networking websites of friends or associates of such members that can be accessed by other members or visitors to the website. A social networking website provides members of or visitors to such website the ability to leave messages or comments on the profile web page that are visible to all or some visitors to the profile web page and may also include a form of electronic mail for members of the social networking website.

So essentially, it is now a felony for me to use any site that creates a profile. So I can't use dating sites, professional networking sites, news sites, forums, job sites or anything that allows me to communicate with people, even if the site is not even used by people under the age of 18. This law needs to be reviewed by the supreme court of IL. Its unconstitutional. I did my time, I have been a quality citizen of this state for 7 years now. Its ridiculous. If it had a provision that said sites that are social in nature and have a large population of minors under 18, then I could understand it.

They can't do this. I am also gay, so I can't use a site such as gay.com or match.com to try to meet people, even though those sites the people are required to be 18 years to join. WTF!!!!

Mike Doyle said:

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Check out this detailed and equally negative take on Illinois' new law over on Cnet.

Alan said:

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I have a friend who was charged with possession of child pornography. He was found not guilty. The prosecution feels that the person still did it. My friend requested to have his charge expunged. The judge said that he has no obligation to destroy records. My friend now can't get a decent job and a place to live because he was charged with possession. He is still being treated as if he did it. I thought it said, "Innocent until proven guilty." So if my friend is innocent, why is he being treated guilty?

We are going to start a petition to end this inequality in the courts.

annoyed said:

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Well some good news that maybe our state isnt as f'd up as we thought!!! If you read the legislation it pertains resigered sex offenders on probation or parole and only effect people convicted after the date the legislation passed? Anyone else have comment or other insight?

annoyed said:

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So, all these article seem to be wrong. I have read HB1314 that was signed and it only applies to people placed on parole, probation, and supervison, and applies only during that time. Also, it only applies to people convicted after the effective date of the bill, which is June 1st, 2009.

Here is a link to a Senators site that summarize the bill: http://www.senatorcronin.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=97:this-week-in-the-illinois-senate-&catid=3:latest&Itemid=50

Internet Safety (HB 1314): Prohibits a convicted sex offender from accessing a social networking Internet Web site while on parole, mandatory supervised release, probation, conditional discharge or supervision.

Also, Here is the full text of the bill:

http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/fulltext.asp?GAID=10&SessionID=76&GA=96&DocTypeID=HB&DocNum=1314&LegID=&SpecSess=&Session=

I am not sure why all the reporters have not read the bill before writing articles such as this.

annoyed said:

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Although, the topic is very interesting to see what peoples thoughts are!! Good Article Mike!!!

Rwb67 said:

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unconstitutional!! why do our lawmakers in this state make up such fear touting,feel good laws ?? they protect no one,we as parents are suppose to monitor and protect,laws like these do no good,protect no one just make sure these law makers feel good about themselves like they are helping but actually hurting,making believe that with these laws and other enacted will protect children,lets see fake names and addresses and such will just be used come on people of this state lets educate ourselves more about sex offenders and work together too protect our children and educate them,this new law is no more affective than the 500 ft residency restriction law,they cant live with in 500 ft of,so you all feel better they cant ? well then how about 1,000, 2,000 ?? worked so well for Iowa nope it didnt,they have restructered there laws,when will Illinois ?? the 500 ft law does nothing to protect,you want to know why,well offenders cant sleep with wives or just sleep there at there homes,but they can go there anytime,that means during the day when school is in or even when its not,they just sleep there when school isnt in session,so this law protects who ?? just like this new one social networking site,when are going too stand up to this lousy government that has done nothing but pass feel good laws and steal and lie and put special taxes on candy just because they coudnt raise state tax,people of Illinois its time we educate ourselves more about these sex offender laws that truthfully dont protect just make everyone "feel" safe but not. thanks
also Illinois does not put any research,studies or anything to justify the uncommonsense laws Illinois,our lawmakers arent protecting us from anything,not even them,lets get together and stop this BS thet keep on passsing,your kids wont be protected from any of these laws,lets all do research on it and let them know we are all concerned and they should be as well here are a couple of names DR. JS LEVENSON ON RESIDENCY RESTRICTIONS -
2:47 PM, 8.18.09 Rwb67 and COREY YUNG- FROM JOHN MARSHALL SCHOOL OF LAW- RESIDENCY RESTRICTIONS,people there is more and more research and facts on why these wont work and why they could put kids in more danger this is not just propaganda these are professionals who studied and recieved lots of praise from other professionals,please look up sex offender research on government sites ,you will be suprised who protests and also thinks these laws need to be changed,Jacob Wtterling foudation,police cheifs,educational person who work for governmant,Illinois knows nothing,doesnt do the research needed to know the truth and facts,please people of Illinois do the research and eduacte yourselves and your kids and lets change these laws here in Illinois before it becomes Iowa or Florida thanks

whoudinni said:

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Obama stated that he beleive on our country giving second chances, what about 3 strikes you out if a reg. sex offender have more than two offense of the same sex charge then have restrictions but what about the one that made one mistake of that natural of crime who can't live and provide for him or herself or families. The internet has a lot of information for the good as well for the bad, if sex offenders can't use the web for jobs which most cases is how you find them and futher their education online to better themsevles, I call that double jepordy still suffering for your pass even the lord forgives if you turn from your wicked ways so why is this country based on so call Christians believe?

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