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.