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Proposed Law: Sex Offenders on Probation Shouldn't Be Allowed to Look at Porn

A Republican state senator from Lakeland, Sen. Kelli Stargel, and a Democratic state rep from here in Plantation, Katie Edwards, cosponsored legislation Wednesday that would try to keep sex offenders who are on probation from accessing pornography.

Edwards says her bill was the result of a Sun Sentinel article about reoffenders. "I had spoken to Sen. Stargel," Edwards told New Times, "... and we said what are some loopholes, some small bites of the apple that we can [address practically]?" She said Stargel's husband is a judge and helped them come up with the proposed law.

She says that the criminal justice subcommittee is exploring ways for sex offenders to make a "lifetime commitment to stop offending" and that "the bipartisan wherewithal is there" to pass legislation.

Her proposed law would place "a prohibition on viewing, accessing, owning, or possessing any obscene, pornographic, or sexually stimulating visual or auditory material, including telephone, electronic media, computer programs, or computer services."

Edwards did not get into specifics about how it might be enforced. (Imagine the legal debates about whether a picture or telephone conversation was/ wasn't "stimulating"!)

Stangel was quoted as saying:

"Pornography is a catalyst to a range of sexual offenses in our culture. This bill is common-sense legislation. Currently, a sex offender can view pornography if it is not relevant to their sexual offense. I believe it is in the best interest of the offender and the public that all pornography is prohibited to sexual offenders, regardless of the person's prior deviant behavior. I am proud to sponsor legislation with Representative Edwards which works toward a safer Florida for all citizens."

This 2007 exploration of whether porn triggers sex offenses found that the opposite was true: As internet porn exploded, rapes decreased.

Edwards said she didn't have data to support her position, but she thought Stargel did.

Courts have been challenged on pornography, sometimes ruling that legislating it amounts to creating a "thought crime."

"I welcome anybody who has concerns about how civil liberties might be impacted" to join the debate, Edwards said, and to "talk to the families that have been impacted by sexual abuse. There needs to be a balance. The public has a right to be free from sexual abuse and molestation. All our bill would be doing is making sure we're not limiting judges... The effect of pornography could have a stimulating effect that would prompt someone to fall off the wagon." She compared it to alcoholics having a cocktail.




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