During the coronavirus pandemic, when an individual’s virtual lifeline to the rest of the world depends on internet access, some registrants, especially many of those on parole, continue to be denied computer/internet access.
While the pandemic affects everyone, with businesses closed, when even our physicians don’t want us coming to their office, many registrants on parole are without computer access, a technology that has become a basic function and a necessity for daily living. Now more than ever, we must be online to keep in touch with loved ones, order our groceries, work from home, tele-connect with our physicians, etc.
The internet is an essential part of our lives, even more so during this pandemic.
News. Without internet, registrants may not have access to the information they need regarding the coronavirus, health updates, testing facilities or stay-at- home orders. The P.O. idea that registrants can get their information from television or newspapers just doesn’t fly, many registrants are homeless, they don’t have those luxuries.
Medical. Access to telemedicine doesn’t happen for a registrant that is only allowed use of a phone from the dinosaur age, a phone with no internet capability, no texting capability, no camera, no email, just a basic phone. While P.O.’s may say that a basic “phone appointment” with your physician is just as good as a smartphone appointment, I’m sure they themselves would probably rather have a telemedicine appt where they can actually see and be seen by their physician. Making appointments with practitioners, reviewing your lab results, messages from your physician, they are all done on patient portals, online, on a computer, a basic medical necessity that registrants are denied the use of.
Banking. Some banks are closed except for drive-up. Banking “on-line” is how we do business nowadays. Because of the registry many registrants can find jobs, they can’t afford cars to “drive-up” in. What about online bill paying? Many registrants are forced to pay for stamps which increase every year, then they must trek to the post office, utility company, etc. just to pay their bills while the rest of us, with the click of a mouse, voila, our bills are paid.
Groceries. In some areas, grocery shopping online isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity, especially in areas where stores have gone to “on-line shopping and pick-up only” during the pandemic. Registrants who have compromised immune systems, those who are unable to physically get to stores are denied access to the technology they need in order to obtain their food, a basic necessity of life.
School, job training, paystubs, schedules, appointments, email responses, medical research, locations, phone numbers, it’s all online now. There are no longer phonebooks, paper checks, phone call reminders from physician’s offices. To fix your cable tv problems you’re required to go online and chat with technicians. We are a technological world and without access, registrants are out of luck.
While our world has changed over the years, registry laws that were put in place when the registry was conceived, before computers became a necessity, not a luxury, haven’t changed. Food, water and shelter may have been our only basic necessities then, but now, as we see with this pandemic, computer access has become a basic necessity, even for registrants on parole.
If their offense was an internet offense and they abuse the internet privilege, then that’s on them. But there are many registrants, even those who had internet offense, who have been rehabilitated, who have received treatment and who would now use a computer more responsibly.
All registrants, even those on parole, need computer access.