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Big Brother Monitoring Michigan Sex Offenders

Not satisfied with conventional methods of monitoring sex offenders, Michigan is taking a hi-tech approach. Along with the ubiquitous ?school safety zones? and residency restrictions, concerned citizens can now be notified by email when changes are made to the state?s online sex offender registry. Michigan officials are also expanding the state?s Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) sex offender tracking program, and are purging sex offenders from online social networking sites.

As of January 2007, Michigan residents can sign up for email notification when changes are made to the state?s online sex offender registry. Under the program ? timed to coincide with a state law that requires all sex offenders to register annually between January 1 and January 15 ? members of the public can receive notice of residency changes in up to six zip codes. Persons convicted of misdemeanor sex offenses, such as indecent exposure, must register every year; those convicted of felony sex offenses have to register quarterly.

Further expanding the digital frontiers of sex offender restrictions, on June 21, 2007 state Attorney General Mike Cox announced he had subpoenaed a list of 200 Michigan sex offenders who have accounts on MySpace ? an internet site popular with children and teens. Prosecutors filed a revocation petition against one sex offender with a MySpace profile, Edward Mitchell Mulak, who was forbidden from using a computer as a condition of his probation.

Michigan isn?t alone; a number of states, including Maine, New Jersey, Texas, New Hampshire, Ohio, Georgia, Idaho, Connecticut, Mississippi and Pennsylvania, have sought sex offender account information from MySpace.

Further, Virginia, Arizona and Kentucky specifically require sex offenders to notify law enforcement of their email addresses, and Florida is in the process of imposing a similar requirement.

Michigan officials have also pushed for increased electronic monitoring of offenders convicted for sex crimes against children. With $1.5 million allocated for the program, officials intend to enroll at least 500 sex offenders in the GPS tracking system by September 30, 2007 and 1,000 within the following year, according to Russ Marlan, spokesman for the Michigan Department of Corrections.

Offenders pay $5 a day for the privilege of being electronically monitored, and many will be tracked for life. Legislation passed by Michigan lawmakers in 2006 mandates lifetime GPS monitoring and a 25-year minimum sentence for anyone convicted of certain sex crimes against children.

Michigan?s sex offender database had approximately 40,000 names as of May 2, 2007, including over 19,400 online profiles with photos of convicted offenders, and continues to grow. Most sex offenders remain on the registry for 25 years to life. Ironically, the huge number of sex offenders in the database, many of whom committed minor crimes long ago, actually prevents it from fulfilling its intended purpose ? allowing parents to easily identify serious threats to their children?s safety.

Sources: South Bend Tribune,, Detroit News

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