New Jersey's 16th Legislative District

Senator Kip Bateman

Senator Kip Bateman

Bateman Op-Ed: Sex Offenders and Social Media

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The following editorial by Senator Christopher “Kip” Bateman about the need to identify sex offenders on social networking websites was published in the Star-Ledger on December 6. The editorial can be viewed at this link and is pasted below in its entirety.

By Christopher “Kip” Bateman (R-Hunterdon, Somerset, Mercer and Middlesex):

On Nov. 26, a state Appellate Court upheld limited access to the internet for convicted sex offenders who are on parole, by allowing authorities to prohibit sex offenders from using online social networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Although the Appellate Court and state Supreme Court acknowledge the relatively high recidivism rate of sex offenders, and there are state statute and parole board rules that address internet access for certain sex offenders, many are still allowed to use the very same social networks that are being popularized by more and more of our children.

In this increasingly digitalized society, we must do everything to protect our children from predators who can use social media networks to easily and anonymously target unsuspecting victims.

Legislation I introduced in July 2012 would establish a statutory protection for families and children to know the sex offenders who are using social media websites.

Senate bill 2142 would require anyone required to register as a sex offender to also identify the criminal status on their online social network profiles.

Modeled after a recently enacted Louisiana law, this legislation requires sex offenders to also identify in their social network profiles the crimes for which they were convicted, the jurisdiction of convictions, a description of their physical appearances, their residential addresses, and a link to their official sex offender listing on Internet registry.

Sex offenders would also have to provide law enforcement with a list of e-mail addresses, screen names and other identities used for internet chats, messaging and social networking sites. Those caught violating the law face up to 18 months in jail and fines up to $10,000.

I understand that certain social media networks ask users to agree to terms and conditions, which may try to ban sex offenders from maintaining profiles. But can we trust that all people who have committed heinous sex acts against children will follow a website’s rule?

Clearly, the answer is “no.”

Between 2000 and 2006, there was a 21 percent increase in arrests of offenders who solicited youth online for sex, according to a 2009 study by the University of New Hampshire’s Crimes Against Children Research Center.

According to a 2003 U.S. Department of Justice report, sex offenders released from state prisons were four times more likely to be rearrested for a sex crime than those imprisoned for non-sex offenses. Within the first three years following their release from prison in 1994, 5.3 percent of released sex offenders were rearrested for a sex crime. The rate for released non-sex offenders was 1.3 percent. This report states that 43 percent of the sex offenders were rearrested for committing a crime of any type.

Unfortunately, the risk of another sex offense doesn’t disappear with parole supervision. It’s time for this Legislature to enact additional protections to better help authorities to prevent internet sex crimes and to give families information they need to protect themselves in online communities. I urge the Senate Democrats to start this process by finally posting S2142 for a vote.

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