By Christy Hutchings
BIRMINGHAM (WBRC) - A federal appeals court has ruled that an Indiana law banning registered sex offenders from Facebook is unconstitutional.
The ruling won't affect us in Alabama, because we take an entirely different approach when it comes to social media.
Alabama has one of the strongest laws in the country when it comes to sex offenders. And while the state does not ban sex offenders from using social media sites they regulating what they can do. These laws so far haven't been seen as unconstitutional and haven't been challenged.
The Internet can be a sexual predator's playground.
"We think about our children and restricting their access to computers, however now with technology and phones out there it's in the palm of their hand," Sgt. Jacob Reach with the Jefferson County Sex Offender Unit said.
- Well, get rid of the phone! Be a parent, stop letting the government babysit you and your children!
Reach helps monitor the more than seven hundred sex offenders in Jefferson County and he will be the first to tell you, convicted sex offenders are drawn to social media.
- What a crock! This is fear mongering BS! Ex-offenders use social media for the same reasons you do. Some may be using it for what you mentioned, but it's rare!
"They are going to find a way to access children and social media is easy access," Reach said.
- Not all ex-sex offenders are out looking for kids to molest. Clearly this man is biased in his personal opinions, which aren't based on the facts. A study was done awhile back (here) which shows that most children are approached by their peers, not some stranger.
Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are all ways for a predator to reach children. But here in Alabama there are strict laws in place protecting potential victims. On top of sex offenders having to register where they live or work, they also have to notify law enforcement of social media sites they belong to and share email accounts.
"For example, if they have a Facebook account we'd have access to it to look at the account to make sure [an offender is] not posting pictures of himself with children sitting in his lap and he's not allowed to reside with children and that would allow us to investigate further to ensure their safety," Reach said.
- This is not exactly true. You may have their account name, but you don't (I don't think) have their passwords. If you do, then that is clearly a violation of their rights, and if they have the profile non-public, then you cannot see anything they say or do.
Jefferson County issues close to 250 warrants a year for sex offenders who aren't in compliance with the law.
"These offenders know we stay on top of them," Reach said.
Reach says parents need to talk to their children about the danger of sexual predators. If someone, your child doesn't know sends them a request on Facebook Reach says do not accept that request and to tell your parents at once.