Thursday, November 6, 2008

Treat the criminals as criminals, leave the rest of us alone

What's wrong with the proposition that convicted sex offenders are forced to consume a strictly filtered feed provided by, say, the NSW education department? Any attempt to use a non-filtered feed would be a criminal offence with appropriate penalties.

This would constrain the deprivation of liberty to convicted sex offenders, would make good use of existing, 99% effective - if draconian - filtering infrastructure and would achieve the stated objective of denying the evildoers access to illegal material.

The NSW education department's highly effective filtering infrastructure already exists. The incremental cost of adding convicted sex offenders to its client base would be minimal.

Some might think that such totalitarian control over the Internet consumption of convicted sex offenders is a bit harsh for a Western democracy. Perhaps it is, but if so aren't the Government's plans to impinge on the liberties of innocent Australians who have committed no crime an even greater affront to civil liberties?

As it stands, the Government's current proposal treats the entire Australian population as a band of pedophiles who are so morally irresponsible that they cannot be trusted to stay away from illegal material on their own accord or even with threat of legal sanction. The Government apparently believes that Australians must be physically restrained from consuming illegal material - this can be the only justification for not relying on moral and legal sanctions.

Just how depraved does the Australian Government think we are?

How does the Government think it can maintain such a low opinion of us and stay in office?

2 comments:

Stilgherrian said...

I agree that compulsory Internet filtering for everyone is indeed assuming that we can't be trusted to make our own decisions. But I must point out what I think is a problem with your lead-in point:

"What's wrong with the proposition that convicted sex offenders are forced to consume a strictly filtered feed provided by, say, the NSW education department?" you ask. "Any attempt to use a non-filtered feed would be a criminal offence with appropriate penalties."

The problem is that once the "sex offender" has completed their prison sentence or whatever, then at that point I think they need to be treated as any other "normal" citizen.

This is a really tough issue. However once someone has "paid the penalty" for a crime, then the penalty is over and done with.

If someone is guilty of theft, and is a "thief", once we release them we don't ban them from going into shops in case they might steal something again. Even if someone was a murderer, we don't ban them from associating with other humans in case they decide to kill them.

"Sex offender" has become the black beast of the 21st Century. It's possible less bad to be a serial killer. And certainly the word of a "sex offender", or especially "child sex offender", gets the talkback callers going.

However if we automatically treat offenders as second-class humans for the rest of their life, what incentive do we provide for them to improve their ways?

Jon Seymour said...

G'day Stil,

I agree that our justice system should allow the possibility of redemption. Once someone has served their time, their rights should be restored.

It needn't be different in this case either - restrictions on Internet use could be part of the sentence given by the courts and, as you say, they should probably be time limited. If this was a form of punishment that was meted out by the courts in accordance with the rule of law, then I don't really see how it differs from a prison sentence. It would be objectionable if the executive could decide for itself who was required to submit to these controls.

That said, I am not really that committed to the proposal itself. For me it is mainly a rhetorical device whose purpose it highlight how the Government intends to treat us all as criminals - by eroding out liberty - even though the vast majority of us are not guilty of any crime.