The predator dilemma

June 26, 2008

I think District Court Judge David Hamilton made the right call that Indiana’s law allowing warrantless monitoring of former sex offenders’ Internet activity was unconstitutionally broad. The law would have applied to those who had already served the sentences handed down to themand who, therefore, presumably have the same rights as everybody else. But they would have been required to sign a waiver allowing authorities to monitor their usage even after they had finished their sentences, probabtion and parole.

Hamilton ruled that the state could not require anyone to give up their 4th Amendment right to privacy. Howeveer much we might dislike a certain class of criminal, allowing their rights to ignored is the same as giving permission for our rights to be ignored.

But it’s not as if the law were baseless. It was a good-faith effort to deal with a real problem, as this story demonstrates:

A convicted child molester is one of two Indianapolis men arrested in the past week for sexually charged Internet chats with police posing as 14-year-old girls, authorities said.

Thomas Lee Nickels, 40, Indianapolis, is charged in three counts of child solicitation with online conversations that culminated with his request to meet in person June 18, police said.

These guys are who they are, and they do what they do. Most of them — not the ordinary “sex offender,” but the sick predators who target children — are not going to change. That presents a unique problem in criminal justice. Our sense of fair play says that, once people have served their sentences, they deserve the chance to be left alone to straighten out their lives. But these predators are a continuing danger to our children. So, what do we do? Just give them mandatory life sentences with no chance of parole?

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