By Shana Rowan (USA Fair, Inc.)
To the editor:
In the age of information, there is no excuse for ignorance of nearly two decades’ worth of studies on sex-offender policies and profiles. Sadly, the statements made by law enforcement and District Attorney Ernie Lee in an Aug. 20 article headlined, “Law enforcement weighs in on appellate decision” — regarding the repeal of North Carolina’s social media ban for sex offenders — don’t reflect that.
The judges in the case clearly stated that the law was overly broad because the ban applied to everyone convicted of any type of sex offense, without regard to whether or not they posed a risk to re-offend, had used a computer to commit their initial crime or had a child victim.
Why would law enforcement support a law that wastes valuable resources on no-risk offenders while truly dangerous individuals fall through the cracks?
According to a 2008 report (PDF) by the American Psychological Association, “the publicity about online ‘predators’ who prey on naive children using trickery and violence is largely inaccurate.” The report goes on to say that the majority of victims in cases where social media was involved were willing participants in Internet-initiated sexual activity, but too young to legally give consent. The cases rarely involved violence and 75 percent of victims engaged physically with their offenders more than once.
A tremendous number of arrests for “soliciting minors” stem from law enforcement sting operations who entice potential offenders with non-existent teenagers.
Lastly, social media has become an integral part of connecting with friends and loved ones, keeping up on and discussing the news, and even obtaining employment. We should be encouraging former sex offenders to re-integrate healthily, not create additional obstacles. Lack of stability and access to loved ones have both been shown to increase the risk of re-offense.
Given the conclusive reports of low sex-offender recidivism and high prevalence of crimes committed by first-time offenders, we agree with the court’s ruling. While we can all agree that one re-offense is one too many, and that predatory behavior towards minors must be stopped, it is counter-productive to pour precious resources into defending a law that in reality will do almost nothing to prevent future victimizations.