Virginia, New York Officials Propose Plans to Tighten Oversight of Sex Offenders

Officials in two states proposed unusual plans Monday to tighten oversight of convicted sex offenders: Virginia's attorney general wants them to register their e-mail addresses and online IDs, and New York officials want them to take lie-detector tests.

In New York, the parolees' answers to a computer-based polygraph test about their whereabouts could be used to justify electronic monitoring, prohibit Internet use or restrict travel, said Division of Parole spokesman Scott Steinhardt.

He said 13 officers had already been trained on the equipment, and the plan was approved by the division's lawyer, but it hadn't been reviewed by the state Attorney General's office.

"This is not a panacea; it's not a magic bullet," Ellis said. "However, the Division of Parole believes it could substantially enhance the effective supervision and containment of sex offenders."

In Virginia, Attorney General Bob McDonnell said Monday he would seek legislation to require convicted sex offenders there to register their online identities with the state to help MySpace and other online teen hangouts more easily block access.

Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and John McCain, R-Ariz., announced plans for similar federal legislation last week, but theirs would apply only to those on probation or parole. McDonnell's plan for Virginia would apply to all convicted sex offenders.

Parents, school administrators and law-enforcement authorities have grown increasingly worried that teens are at risk on MySpace and other social-networking sites, which provide tools for messaging, sharing photos and creating personal pages known as profiles.

Hemanshu Nigam, MySpace's chief security officer, applauded the Virginia announcement.

"This legislation is an important recognition that the Internet has become a community as real as any other neighborhood and is in need of similar safeguards," Nigam said.

MySpace also announced plans last week to develop technology to help block convicted sex offenders by checking profiles against government registries, but the News Corp.-owned site's ability to do so is limited by the fact that users do not have to use their real names.

Nationwide, there are more than 550,000 registered sex offenders. Virginia counts 13,000 of them.

"We require all sex offenders to register their physical and mailing addresses in Virginia, but in the 21st century it is just as critical that they register any e-mail addresses or IM screen names," McDonnell said.