Adult Probation Uses Software to Monitor Parolees Online

By Camaron Abundes   
NewsWest 9

MIDLAND- Background checks don't exist online and that's one reason Allen Bell, Director of Operations at Midland Adult Probation says they turned to software to monitor sex offenders who are on probation.

"Software is loaded onto the computer and it is almost like a live monitoring," Bell said.

Every move online or offline is recorded for a probation officer to review. If a sex offender visits Myspace or Facebook it triggers an automatic alert that goes to a probation officer.

Sex Offenders in the program are only allowed to use the internet if a Judge authorizes use and if they pay 25 dollars to use the software each month.

"It let's you know you're being watched and that's a big part of the deterrent, just knowing." Bell said.

About 10 offenders currently have access to the internet, but all offenders are subjected to home searches and polygraphs to make sure they aren't violating the terms of their probation.

"If you can't go to the park where the kids are playing then you can't sit behind your computer and talk to them online." Bell said.

Bell says keeping predators offline is a big concern but in the age of cell phones with internet access and internet cafe's, it is an endless battle. This week, Myspace booted 90 thousand sex offenders off its social-networking site nationwide.

"If it takes further measures with computers fine, but I don't think it's computers," Midlander Frank Barrasso, said.

Barrasso thinks parents shouldn't let their children log on to keep them away from sex offenders.

"If they do their homework on it. It's really tough to say no, because they type their papers." Midlander Deborah Strauss disagrees, she said parents need to talk to their children.

Michelle Lyons, a spokesperson for the State Prison system says inmates who are released from prison and placed on parole are also monitored closely. Lyons said sex offenders are not allowed to go online once released and parole officers check Myspace and Facebook for local faces.

"It comes back to family, and there are a lot of families that do not have the support out there that they need." Resident Deborah Chapman said.