|Employment, Computers, and Sex Offender Registration: Whats the Connection?|
|By Art Bowker, Cybercrime Specialist|
Technology restrictions in corrections are really never far from my mind. So when an article or study comes out that touches, even remotely on the issue, I light up a cigar and commence reading. There were three recently that caught my attention.
Two articles appeared in the June 2012 issue of Federal Probation, which on first blush appear unrelated to one another. The first article by Christopher E. Kelly and Jamie J. Fader noted that nearly 1/3 of the employers in their study… “had moved to exclusively computer-based application methods, accessible via either a personal computer with an Internet connection or in-store computer kiosk.” The study further notes increasing these computer based methods require more time to complete, often include requests for details about criminal history, self-reports of criminal behavior, self-reported drug use, drug tests, and credit history, and include personality assessments. Additionally, the study suggests that many offenders may have greater difficulty correctly navigating these technology based applications or at least getting pass their screening efforts, to get an interview. The study did not specifically address the impact of technology conditions for those offenders restricted from using computers or the Internet. However, one does not have to be a rocket scientist to realize that if employers are increasing using online applications than offenders who are prohibited from accessing computers are going to be at a distinct disadvantage. The second article did not touch on employment issues . It was by Daniel B. Freedman and discussed a study exploring the long-term risk of recidivism and registration failures among sexual offenders. (I just can’t seem to get away from the topic of sex offender registration. It is like gum you happen to step in on a 100 degree day.) Briefly the study found registration failure increases the likelihood of recidivism by 64%. Freedman notes:
“Evidence is accumulating that registration failures are linked to recidivism. The substantive trends are clear, even in research that does not find a statistical association (Duwe & Donnay, 2010). What is not apparent is whether registration failures truly approximate or predict criminal behaviors, or whether instead they represent other characteristics such as intelligence, poor communication skills, or systemic differences among criminal justice jurisdictions. In addition, to postulate a link between recidivism and registration failures, on its face, is rather simplistic. Instead, the association will most likely be convoluted by multiple mediating and moderating influences (Duwe & Donnay, 2010; Losel & Schmucker, 2005). For instance, this research finds that child offenders have more registration failures.”
For those few sex offenders that read my blog, neither Freedman nor I are saying there is a cause and effect relationship here. Freedman goes on to note that this link may also be impacted by race as well as adult vs. child offenders. He concludes further research is needed. Okay you say. Interesting but I can’t see through all the cigar smoke to see the connection between the two articles. Well, the connection comes into play with the third article written by Nina Terrero which concerned a recent study which found one in six sex offenders were using techniques created by identify thieves to avoid their legally mandated registration requirements. She notes:
“According to a study conducted by Utica College and funded by the U.S. Justice Department, an estimated 92,000 of the 570,000 registered sex offenders nationwide are using the internet to live freely and undetected while seemingly abiding by “court-imposed or statutory restrictions.”
Wow. Interesting huh. I got a lot of questions. What are the implications? What is the link between registration failure and recidivism? If sex offenders increasing need computer access to get employment, which is a good thing, what about those who appear to be using the Internet to bypass registration? What do we do, hope for the best? There are pros to allowing computer access clearly. But there now seems to be additional concern with allowing access that was not thought of before. Now we have to consider that access may be used to “fly under the radar”, which has some kind of recidivism link. Obviously, we need more research to sort this stuff out. But for now my suggestion is for supervised sex offenders, allow access but manage that access. I know I have said this before, but check out the American Probation and Parole Association’s issue paper on this topic, ”Managing the Risk Posed by Offender Computer Use” You might also check out this recent article in Law Technology News called, “How to Impose Technological Restraints on Criminal Offender?” , written by your favorite cigar smoker. What you thought I all I was doing was eating hamburgers and working on my tan lines? Fooled you! But speaking of cigars, I have a lit one somewhere. Be safe out there!
Art Bowker is the author of The Cybercrime Handbook for Community Corrections: Managing Offender Risk in the 21st Century. He has over 26 years experience in both law enforcement and corrections at the state and federal level. In 2008, Art was the International President of the High Technology Crime Investigation Association (HTCIA). This professional non-profit organization is the largest of its kind devoted to the prevention, investigation, and prosecution of crimes involving advanced technologies (htcia.org). Art is also member of the American Probation and Parole Association (APPA) and is a member of their Technology Committee, He has a Master of Corrections degree from Kent State University. Follow Art on Twitter.com at: (http://twitter.com/Computerpo)
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