The state Department of Corrections last week removed the names, photos and descriptions of convicts who have been free for at least one year from the state’s inmate tracking website — https://www6.state.nj.us/DOC_Inmate/inmatesearch.jsp.
That altered a practice of nearly 10 years, in which the names and pictures of current and former state inmates had appeared on that website for anyone to view.
The listing also included the inmate’s date of birth, the nature of the offense and the county in which it occurred, the length of the sentence and the dates on which the inmate was incarcerated and released.
Corrections officials said they had been receiving a number of complaints from ex-cons that their presence on the website was making it harder for them to find jobs.
We have a certain amount of sympathy for their plight. Consider that the goal of incarceration, besides punishment, is to reform criminals and have them become productive, law-abiding members of society after they have finished their terms. A ex-convict who cannot get a job is more likely to become desperate and angry and return to committing crimes.
All that said, we don’t believe the argument about trouble in getting hired should carry the day for those convicted of the most serious crimes — murder, armed robbery, aggravated assault, etc. — and for repeat offenders.
Those who have served relatively short amounts of time for lesser nonviolent crimes don’t need to be lumped together with kidnappers, murderers and serial criminals who employers should want to know more about. After all, an employer has to consider his or her own safety and the safety of other employees.
So we believe a proper balance should be struck between the civil rights of those who have paid their debt to society and public safety. It’s really not much different than the provisions of Megan’s Law and making sure that people can learn about released sex offenders who might live or work near them. Those whose crimes are of a certain severity just don’t get the benefit of the doubt of being able to disappear entirely from the Department of Corrections website.
Gov. Chris Christie and lawmakers concerned about the general welfare of the public should exert what pressure they can on the Department of Corrections to develop a common-sense plan that, at the very least, differentiates between lifelong, hardened criminals and those convicted of minor offenses when determining whose picture and information stays on the website permanently and whose disappears after a year. It can be done.
Source: Courier-Post OnLine
NJ DOC = New Jersey Department of Corrections