Thursday, May 15, 2008

E-STOP - Another Placebo Sex Offender Law

On May 14, New York Governor David Paterson signed legislation intended to protect children who access social networking sites from convicted sex offenders. The Electronic Security and Targeting of Online Predators Act (e-STOP) would, among other things, require all registered sex offenders to submit their e-mail addresses and online identifiers to the state. In turn, the state would make the addresses available to social networking sites, like MySpace, and other online services. At least in regard to this provision, this is a placebo law that will protect no one and is likely unconstitutional.

If this law provides any protection, it is minimal at best. It is hard to imagine that any knowledgeable person could dispute the proposed law’s ineffectiveness. E-mail addresses are easily created using fake or anonymous information.

In past months, MySpace has announced that they have discovered 36,000 registered sex offenders who signed up as members of their site. Several of these have been arrested for possible parole violations. I have kept a close eye on these developments and am aware of only two who have been charged with an attempt to solicit a minor online.

This issue came to the fore with MSNBC’s “To Catch a Predator” sting. Apparently, lawmakers did not pay very close attention to the show. As reported to a hearing held by the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee last October, out of the over 229 perpetrators caught in the sting, only 4 were registered sex offenders.

A panel of experts recently reported to the Internet Safety Technical Task Force that "the risk of a child being forced into sex from an online predator is almost non-existent. And in the relatively few cases where a youth does engage in sex with someone they first met online, both the meetings and the sex are usually voluntary."

The law also likely has constitutional problems. The e-mail addresses are to be supplied to social networking sites and “other online services” so that these individuals may be monitored or blocked from the sites. Who are these “social networking” sites and “other online services”? Would they include Internet discussion forums provided by many news outlets? Would they include YouTube or blogging sites where anyone can publish their views? Would these sites block the participation of registered sex offenders?

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled on numerous occasions that the right to anonymous free speech is protected by the First Amendment. A 1995 Supreme Court ruling in McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission states: “Protections for anonymous speech are vital to democratic discourse. Allowing dissenters to shield their identities frees them to express critical, minority views . . . Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority. . . . It thus exemplifies the purpose behind the Bill of Rights, and of the First Amendment in particular: to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation . . . at the hand of an intolerant society.”

This legislation is also based on other faulty premises. The New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's press release which announced the proposal of this law states: “Sex offenders have been shown to have recidivism rates far higher than those who commit other types of crimes.” Governor Paterson stated that sex predators have a 90% recidivism rate.

This statement is contrary to New York State’s own research. A recent New York study reports that "sex offenders are arrested and/or convicted of committing a new sex crime at a lower rate than other offenders who commit other new non-sexual crimes." (“Research Bulletin: Sex Offender Populations, Recidivism and Actuarial Assessment,” New York State Division of Probation and Correctional Alternatives, May, 2007, p. 4). This study of 19,827 offenders on the New York State Sex Offender Registry on March 31, 2005 found that 8% had been arrested for a new sex crime within 8 years of their date of first registration.

A registered sex offender might want to publish the real facts online. Unfortunately, this legislation may make it impossible for him to do so. In our society, the right of free speech must be protected even for “unpopular individuals.” If not, we may all be denied the right to hear and speak the truth.


NG said...

I can't help but wonder whether certain people took advantage of Gov. Patterson's disability and had him sign a bill that wreaks of unconstitutionality.

NG said...

though unrelated to the blog subject, this could prove relevant if Google decides to play follow the leader.

David Hess said...

I agree. It will be interesting to see how far this spreads.

Hexster said...

Considering all the facts and research available contradicting the popular consensus on sex offenders, it would seem obvious that politicians are riding the "hate wave" for political gain. People in government should be held accountable and punished for their deceitful ways.

Anonymous said...

I believe if it were up to the politicans, the U.S. Constitution would be "thrown in the trash" until they could get their "ridiculous" legislation on the law books....Sickening actions being taken by all State lawmakers these days --

Anonymous said...

I am staying anonymous because I am a registered sex offender. My crime was committed in '93 and I ended up doing prison time. I discharged my term 2000 and have since been treated as a leper.
I have been Honorably Discharged from the Armed Forces and still hold my right to vote as a citizen of this country. My crime consisted of a minor and me not knowing, it was a party at a bar, who's at fault? Well, I am because I was an adult and I should have known better.
The point is, the people promoting the "witch hunt" are immoral and corrupt. They use the SORA to hide their own discretion, to hype up the society of ignorance and "sheople" to keep their careers!! Where does it end?
For the record, I am a level 1 in NY, but am treated as a level 2 and 3...

Anonymous said...

Pedophelia is a MENTAL ILLNESS, which all too often results in CRIMINAL behaviors. The current treatment of convicted sex offenders is deplorable, and almost as bad as the crimes they've committed (impacts on non-victim children and other family members.) Just by doing some basic math from the studies conducted by the USDOJ and the Arizona DOC - and combining that with the reasonably accurate figure that one in three women and one in four men have been sexually abused sometime during their childhoods, will lead us to one of two truths: Each convicted offender in Arizona (for example) had to have had over 100 victims apiece; OR, there's a WHOLE LOT more people out there who have this disease than we're prepared to acknowledge right now. Along with politicians and law enforcement, the MEDIA should somehow be held more accountable - they keep the public whipped into a constant state of fear, revulsion, and vilification of a statistically harmless population - at the same time (as discussed) contributing to the waste of already severely taxed resources. I'm a convicted FORMER offender; self-confessed (I was not "caught.") I tried to do the right thing after having acted on my deviant desires, and got therapy for the victim and myself. While I didn't expect a medal for meritorious behavior, I ALSO did not expect a total of 4 1/2 years of incarceration, 15 years of demeaning and degrading probation (got off of "lifetime" on a technicality [Peak v AZ]) and still am looked upon as a "leper" 17 years after the fact. I am currently listed as a level TWO, because the scoring system does not allow for any positives to count FOR me, only negatives AGAINST me. I've been self-employed for most of this period, but business has essentially failed due to the economy. Despite my college education and over 20 years of running a successful business - I don't know where to begin to look for a job befitting my skill set. How and why right now, would others who are battling with their consciences like I did prior to coming forward - even REMOTELY entertain doing so in this hypocritical, for-profit, UNJUST environment? This means that countless more offenses against children WILL take place as these individuals refuse to seek help (AND less reporting is likely occurring) because it's just not worth the consequences. Offenders and their families will struggle with it alone, and lose. A scared population is an easily-controlled population. Sex offenders are just the beginning of a seemingly inevitably Orwellian America. The "sheeple" better wake up, before it's THEIR doors being kicked in.

Anonymous said...

I think that the system is too far behind times. I am in the same boat as you, but much younger. I was 16 when I was convicted, but how can you call those who cannot vote a legal adult. That is unjust. How can you not factor in treatment, that is unjust. How can you ignore grassroots efforts, that is unjust. I would be glad to represent the Sex Offenders of NYS. I have nothing to lose. My family is dispatched, and people are ignorant. I want to help, but I cannot lie. If I could just achieve freedom for myself, I probably would not look back.