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NJ: Sex-offender challenges give N.J. an online registry unlike others.


April 30, 2002

By Jan Hefler

It is a chilling virtual rogues' gallery, with large color photographs of New Jersey's worst sex offenders staring from the computer terminal.

The newest Sex Offender Internet Registry in the country has more information than many may care to know - including details on scars, tattoos and criminal activity, such as "follows juvenile males into public restrooms."

Only two months old, the online registry - designed to help people spot offenders in their communities - already is mired in controversy and shadowed by an uncertain future.

"All it does is spend taxpayers' money to humiliate people. It's a fool's errand of great magnitude," said John S. Furlong, a Mercer County lawyer who is fighting to keep 25 clients off the registry. Sex offenders "have a right to redemption and should be permitted to get on with their lives."

The state public defender and the American Civil Liberties Union have filed an appeal in federal court to shut down the registry, contending it violates offenders' rights.

In other states - notably Connecticut and Hawaii - judges already have pulled the plug on online registries. Also looming is a U.S. Supreme Court review of Alaska's registry, a decision that could impact other states.

Even as it is challenged, New Jersey's online registry, which evolved from the state Megan's Law, is smaller than those in other states.

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Source: 2002 The Philadelphia Inquirer