Computer program helps Georgia keep tabs on online sex offender browsing – News – The Florida Times-Union


ATLANTA – Preventing convicted sex offenders from getting into trouble on the internet once they are released can be a difficult task, but the Georgia Department of Corrections is using technology to help them.

Probation officers, each with around 50 criminals to supervise, would be tasked with manually filtering all online activity during their monthly surprise inspections of the ex-inmate’s homes. The special conditions sex offenders agree to when they get probation allow inspections, and a new state law requires offenders to surrender their usernames and passwords, but enforcement of the conditions may be delicate.

Thus, the Correctional Service has just renewed its contract with a Texas company, RemoteCOM, which electronically monitors online activity at no cost to taxpayers. Violators who obtain permission to use the Internet agree to pay RemoteCOM $ 35 per month and install company software on their home computer.

The software blocks access to pornographic websites and prohibited chat rooms. It also scans authorized apps, such as email, for keywords that may suggest a violation.

RemoteCOM hires officers on leave to manually inspect the activity their software alerts them to. For example, a response to an email that was not originally sent from the monitored computer would be a clue that the offender used another computer in violation of the rules.

RemoteCOM estimates that 10% of convicted sex offenders are returned to prison for breaking their rules online.

The correctional service oversees 6,200 sex offenders on probation, but only about 20 are supervised, according to department spokeswoman Sharmelle Brooks.

“There has been no violation of the places that use the system,” she said.

One reason is that offenders know they’re being watched and don’t do anything online that they wouldn’t want to do in public, according to RemoteCOM president Robert Rosenbusch.

“We are trying to create a perception of containment on their computer,” he said. “We want to make them public. It’s not something they would want to do in the public library.”

RemoteCOM is committed to sending its experts to testify for free in the event of a violation in any of the multiple states and counties it works with. Rosenbusch said he never had to testify in the company’s five years of existence, as defense lawyers have always recommended a guilty plea once they have seen the evidence that the company computer compiles.

The Correctional Service is not the only state agency overseeing convicted sex offenders. The Georgia Board of Pardons and Lyrics oversees 365 sex offenders who were released prematurely and are serving the remainder of their sentences on parole. It does not use a supervision service, relying instead on regular polygraphs, therapy sessions and inspections by parole officers, said Richard Oleson, program manager for sex offenders and electronic monitoring.

“If there is something that we don’t see, the polygraph and the therapist could advise us,” he said. “Our procedures are pretty good.”

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Gordon K. Morehouse