How to monitor a former sex offender's use of the Internet..
May 6, 2014 1:02 PM   Subscribe

As part of my professional work, I am seeking to help a sex offender, who is on probation, get permission to access the Internet.

His offense was engaging in cybersex with what he thought was an underage teenager (but who was actually a cop).

His criminal sentence is mostly complete, but he has been on probation for a long time and part of that is that he can't use any device connected to the Internet. Because of this no-Internet restriction, he can't search for many jobs in his field, fill out job applications, work many jobs, take classes at the local college, exchange info related to his self-help class/group... etc. I would like to convince the authorities to lift or modify this no-Internet requirement from the last portion of his probation.

As part of that, I would like to find some software or even a service that will monitor and report any misuse of a computer by him; so he can at least access the Internet to look for work or do some of these other work or treatment-related things. Maybe there is some service, site or software that would screen urls or email, block chat rooms, report activity, etc. . . . . Obviously, nothing is foolproof; but he is is on probation now and that's not foolproof either.

Any suggestions?
posted by anonymous to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The most important thing is to not get this guy in trouble. I know a lot of people are familiar with, and live by, the phrase, "Better to ask forgiveness than permission".

That phrase is deadly in probation.

You're anonymous so I don't know what part of the country you're in, but I'm a criminal defense attorney in California, I have done a lot of post-conviction relief (which is basically what you're talking about with the modification or revocation of probation) and how I would go about it is the following.

1) I would contact the person's probation officer (well, I would have him do so, they might not want to talk to you) or have his lawyer contact them for you. The probation department might already have a program in place, with approved software and all, to deal with this and he may be able to slip right into it.

2) In the case that probation can't/doesn't have an issue with this, I'd contact a lawyer and see if they can likely win a motion for "early termination of probation" or "modification of probation".

If he's been on probation for a long time, and he can show a particular reason for needing to get online, he'll probably be alright. I haven't had to do this, but I'd be amazed if I couldn't get someone who was, say, half way through their probation and hasn't caused any problems, a modification that he could only have "supervised" usage. Supervision in these places generally doesn't need to be a professional supervisor, but just a family member or friend.

For instance, I have had cases where I got one of the standard probation restrictions (not to hang out at places habitually inhabited by children) modified so that my client could be supervised by his own family members and still go to family outings at parks, theme parks, etc...

Anyway, you're doing good work here. The rehabilitation part of the USA's penal system is really under developed and causes a lot of unnecessary pain and suffering for everyone involved. Good luck.
posted by bswinburn at 1:14 PM on May 6, 2014 [17 favorites]

I am not a lawyer, nor am I a social worker or nor am I part of the criminal justice system; this is just an idea pulled out of my ass.

It strikes me that nearly every net-nanny software program does this - maybe having his probation officer be the one to set the password or the controls would do the trick. I know that you're asking for a specific software package that would do this, but as I understand it, nearly all of them do, and so I don't imagine it's a question of "which ones would report him" so much as it's a question of identifying which specific person would get notified if he strays (his parole officer? his local police precinct? someone else?).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:20 PM on May 6, 2014

There are dozens of programs geared towards protecting kids that would also serve your purposes. I've known people who used CyberPatrol. Here are some free ones.
posted by desjardins at 1:21 PM on May 6, 2014

Sorry, but the only answer to your question is for him to talk to his probation officer, who may be able to give permission (depending on the words of the restriction) or petition the court for a modification of the release conditions, or, through a lawyer, to petition directly.

I would advise you very strongly against trying to come up with any other solution, even if you think it will be effective or would help you better make your case to the probation office or courts, without getting them involved from the outset. Any other way lies a likelihood of more prison time for the probationee.

In other words, bswinburn has it.
posted by likeatoaster at 1:44 PM on May 6, 2014 [4 favorites]

Rescue Time tracks what sites you visit on websites and apps and sends a weekly email report.

You have to put a program on your computer or computers to use it, though.
posted by aniola at 1:47 PM on May 6, 2014

Probation officer.
They may have solutions already in place.
Here if you are a sex offender on probation or parole they have to approve the job anyway. If it's for a particular job search at particular company while in the presence of probation officer and or social worker it may work.
But you need this IN WRITING. There is no reason to put a guy back in jail because he was looking for a job. Permission. Make sure he is not violating a court order.

I work with sex offenders. Personally i think because this was an online sex crime I doubt they will give him access. Lots of rules are there are there for political reasons NOT for safety. All those distance and housing rules? Studies show not effective at all at reducing recidivism. But they still make the 1000 feet from a school a requirement even though it causes people all kinds of problems. (I have the joy of housing sex offenders from time to time).
posted by AlexiaSky at 3:01 PM on May 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

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