« Senators Orrin Hatch and Tom Cotton proposing Johnson fix to expand reach of Armed Career Criminal Act | Main | Pope Francis official changes Catholic teachings on death penalty to work for abolition worldwide »

August 2, 2018

"The Digital Wilderness: A Decade of Exile & the False Hopes of Lester Packingham"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new paper authored by Guy Padraic Hamilton-Smith now available via SSRN. Here is its abstract:

The United States Supreme Court’s decision in Packingham v. North Carolina announced that people who have been convicted of sex offenses have a First Amendment right to access social media platforms.  In reaching its conclusion, the Court reasoned that the public square — and the communicative activity that the First Amendment protects — now exists on these platforms “in particular.”

Despite Packingham’s promise of free speech for arguably the most despised, feared, and misunderstood group of people in America, it did not directly address ways in which both the state and private actors keep Packingham’s beneficiaries in digital darkness.  As the rolls of America’s sex offense registries swell to near one million people in 2018, sustained exclusion from platforms that society increasingly relies on for civic engagement functionally cripples the ability of an enormous population of people to reintegrate, participate, and effectively challenge laws and policies that target them long after they have exited the criminal justice system.  Far from being dangerous or illicit, the voices of people directly impacted are necessary to properly balance a system which has all but foreclosed redemption, and thus their inclusion gives life not only to the values at the heart of Packingham, but to our conception of justice as well.

August 2, 2018 at 12:58 AM | Permalink


I haven't been worried about "redemption" for a long time now. The people who think I need redemption don't matter. They aren't even people. They are nothing but war criminals that need to be dealt with.

I made my own redemption over a decade ago. Today, if people want the benefits I can richly give, they must have redemption with me. I am committed to shutting out all people who support the Registries. People around me are going to continue to thrive and prosper. They won't include Registry Terrorists (RTs).

I would encourage everyone else to do the same. Before you allow anyone to exist peacefully or support them, find out where they stand on the Registries and big government harassment. For example, you can use the Registries to find out what businesses hire people who are listed on the Registries. Give your business only to those people. If you are going to do business with an unknown supplier, ask their owners about their support of the Registries. It is a pain but you don't want to take a chance that you might help any RT.

The good people must build and operate society that excludes the RTs. Let the RTs shove their "redemption" up their asses.

Posted by: FRegistryTerrorists | Aug 2, 2018 12:21:43 PM

Am a "freelance student" of Legal Matters

What strikes me as the gravitas of the issue is the ongoing and onerous management of one's own requirements as a Registered Person. There are two "kingdoms" to serve. That of the State, and that of the Federal Government. The first being often overwhelming and draconian state-based-policies which have no grounding in the protection of the Public. The second are the overlapping SORNA requirements which some states seem to have taken as permission to set a level, and then wildly add on measures which further distance a registrant from ever being able to reintegrate into society, often for life.

Left to "figure it out on their own" many registrants suffering under these conditions, through truly no malfeasance or intentional conduct of their own find themselves re-arrested and incarcerated for a "Failure to Register" as a result of policies not even the local Sheriff offices even understand clearly.

The Paper presents (in my humble opinion) a cogent review of the public/private nexus of the Internet-based Social Media landscape and the Packingham decision. Public speech is at the core of the analysis. But, on "private" facilities, that is corporate owned social media outlets (Facebook, et al.) glaringly can it seems skirt Packingham with full authority.

Yes, one may have after Packingham the "RIGHT". But that right is truncated by the fact that these social media properties are in fact corporations. They are perhaps the most "closed end systems" imaginable with their own TOS (Terms of Service)and Packingham be damned.

Well done, and a very good paper in the analysis.

Posted by: Tony | Aug 2, 2018 3:38:15 PM

It strikes me as sad that SCOTUS can rule its a violation of the 1st amendment for the government to prohibit S.O.s from using social media sites, but in the same breath say the sites can prohibit S.O.s from using their sites.
To do so smacks of tyranny and oppression. What really wrecks the entire issue is the fact that the registry isn't based on fact.
One would argue that this can and should be resolved by peaceful means. In the end, I fear that the only solution to all this is violence on a grand scale.

Posted by: Oswaldo | Aug 25, 2018 12:18:23 PM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB