I’ve noticed many items in the news recently in regards to restrictions and additional punishments put in place for sex offenders. The more I read about these, the more I think that we are going too far in certain aspects. The latest example that I saw is an article in the NY Times that reports on a law passed by New Jersey which bans some sex offenders from using the internet. Not only this, but monitoring equipment must be installed on their computers and they are required to submit to periodic checks. I agree that sexual crimes should be punished severely, but at what point do we go too far? What other crimes receive this kind of monitoring after incarceration? At what point do these punishments spread to other types of crimes, and when will suspicion be reason enough to start this type of monitoring? Are thieves banned from going to stores where they might be able to steal things? Are bank robbers banned from entering banks? To me, this kind of punishment is excessive, and I do not see exactly what it aims to stop these people from doing. If they really wanted to commit another crime, there are plenty of other ways to do so that do not require finding victims on the internet. In a time when the internet has become a part of everyday life this is a very broad punishment to pass unilaterally. I also wonder exactly what the law defines as part of the internet. Does it ban all computer networks? Are they allowed to use a LAN without external access, or other types of private networks? Theres a lot of gray area there that would be very difficult to properly address.
There seems to be a fascination with sexual crimes and crimes against children in the government recently, and the repercussions of this trend are rather worrisome. As these kinds of severe punishments become more commonplace, they will be used more and more in other, less severe crimes. I see this as a bad sign, as a sign of a government that does not understand technology or the internet, and a sign of a government more obsessed with information on its citizens. Although these laws do not affect me, it is a slippery slope that can soon start impacting citizens who have not committed a crime. There is already a problem with warrantless surveillance, and I fear that these laws are a continuation on a road that I do not think any government should go down.