The Dixie Press policy when covering crimes committed by sex offenders who must currently register, is that their full name, age and current and previous known address is always printed in the story. Because offenders have committed a crime deemed serious enough by a judge to be considered a sex offender, and therefore registering as a sex offender, they have lost a great deal of privacy known to other citizens.
That policy is not always a favorite of our readers, but I stand by it. I believe that once someone is convicted of a crime that causes them to be registered as a sex offender, the public now has a right to know that the said offender is living near their children. The court feels that way, too; thus the reason sex offender information is open to the public.
But sex offenders should still have rights, shouldn’t they? What about an 18-year-old convicted of having sexual intercourse with a 16-year-old? Should all their rights be stripped away for the rest of their lives? Maybe it was the 16-year-old who was the one pushing the physical relationship. Maybe the 18-year-old got the 16-year-old drunk in order to have that relationship?
I’m not here to look at each case individually, that’s what the court system is for. And I’m also not speaking of a specific case – I just made that one up to get you thinking about how there are two sides to every story. So with that in mind, I want to bring up two freedoms sex offenders still have that some citizens would like to see taken away.
Halloween: I was shocked when I read an article in a Salt Lake City paper talking about how sex offenders were decorating their houses, buying candy and preparing for the big holiday. Hundreds of children coming to that person’s door who may have been in prison for 15 years for rape of a child. As a parent, the thought doesn’t sit well with me.
But the other day someone sent me a Facebook request to join the cause “Don’t allow registered sex offenders on Facebook.” OK, technical difficulties with Facebook actually being able to do that aside, is that right? Do we have the right to say that certain people are not allowed on Facebook? Then again, hundreds of children coming to that offenders profile, page or group, especially now that you must “opt out” of a group on Facebook and “opting in” is not an option.
The creator of the cause has a valid concern, but does the concern trump an individual’s Constitutional rights? Do registered, and those who should register but haven’t, sex offenders have Constitutional rights?
According to the website CircleID, Utah was the first state to adopt the policy that sex offenders give up their online passwords to law enforcement.
“Utah Code§ 77-27-21.5(12). A related statute required them also to give the UDOC "any password required for use with an online identifier." Utah Code § 77-27-21.5(2)(c). It defined "online identifier" as "any electronic mail, chat, instant messenger, social networking, or similar name used for Internet communication."
Whether that law is still in effect, I am unsure, as it was being challenged due to privacy concerns.
We don’t want sex offenders in our schools or parks, or anywhere that children are often present. We can go online to see where they are supposedly living and make sure we don’t purchase the house next door. But how do we ensure our children aren’t talking to them online?
I don’t know that trying to adopt a Facebook policy is the answer. I believe it begins in our homes, with parents teaching their children about how to be safe online. There are several ways to ensure your children aren’t having conversations with these offenders by keeping the computer out in the open and not in a child’s bedroom. Know your children’s friends and who they are emailing and chatting with on social networking sites. Make it a requirement that if your children sign up for anything online, that you must have the passwords at all times. And put filters on all computers to keep inappropriate sites from popping up, as well as check for viruses frequently.
Children are in danger of strangers online just as they are when they step outside. Protect your child, talk to your child and let them know that talking to strangers on the internet is dangerous and consider making it a house rule. If you don’t think a stranger can get to your child online, read this article about how a man used teen girls’ own webcams to spy on them and make them perform sexual activities for him online.