By Erin Mulvaney
Texas lawmakers working to toughen laws that police the daily lives of sex offenders are taking their fight online with bills aimed at social media and the Internet.
"With the evolving technology and increasing number of cyber crimes and crimes committed against the vulnerable, the goal is to extend the same policy we have for sex offenders now to the Internet," said Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio. "It's a good, old-fashioned case of being pro-active on crime."
- If that was the case, then he'd also make murderers, gang members, identity thieves, and other ex-felons announce their criminal past on their social profiles as well. Our opinion is this is just another politicians trying to make a name for himself by exploiting fear, children and ex-offenders.
To that end, Martinez Fischer filed House Bill 23 (PDF), which would require registered sex offenders who use social media to include their registration information, including offenses and home addresses in the profile information accessible to other users.
- And since Facebook has in their terms of service that ex-sex offenders cannot use their site, this is basically denying them the right to use social networks.
The bill is one of nearly a dozen filed in Austin this session, aimed at the roughly 72,000 registered sex offenders across Texas.
Among them are proposals to eliminate parole for repeat sex offenders and reinforce the authority of cities to restrict where registered sex offenders can live.
Since about 2005, Texas and other states have sought to tighten laws governing sex offenders' daily lives, mostly targeting mandatory minimum sentences and restricting where they can live and work. Such laws were passed before that year.
Opponents of such measures argue that registrants are unfairly being stigmatized and their rights restricted too broadly. Efforts should be focused on those likely to re-offend and to decrease the number of people on sex offender registries, said Mary Sue Molnar, executive director of Texas Voices for Reason and Justice.
"I think there are always a few who believe toughening up sex offender laws will make a difference," Molnar said. "They are not looking at the real solution or the real problem."