Twenty years ago, the internet was a novel tool. Now it is such an ingrained part of most people’s lives that they experience and exhibit signs of anxiety and stress if they cannot access it. Non-accessibility to the internet can also tangibly set back peoples’ social, educational, financial, and vocational pursuits and interests. In this Article, we argue that the sentencing law needs to be reformed to adapt to the fundamental changes in human behavior caused by the internet.
We present three novel and major implications for the sentencing law and practice in the era of the internet. First, we argue that denial of access to the internet should be developed as a discrete sentencing sanction, which can be invoked for relatively minor offenses in much the same way that deprivation of other entitlements or privileges, such as the right to drive a motor vehicle, are currently imposed for certain crimes.
Second, we argue that prisoners should have unfettered access to the internet. This would lessen the pain stemming from incarceration in a manner which does not undermine the principal objectives of imprisonment—community protection and infliction of a hardship—while at the same time providing prisoners with the opportunity to develop skills, knowledge, and relationships that will better equip them for a productive life once they are released. Previous arguments that have been made for denying internet access to prisoners are unsound. Technological advances can readily curb supposed risks associated with prisoners using the internet.
Finally, if the second recommendation is not adopted, and prisoners continue to be denied access to the internet, there should be an acknowledgement that the burden of imprisonment is greater than is currently acknowledged. The internet is now such an ingrained and important aspect of people’s lives that prohibiting its use is a cause of considerable unpleasantness. This leads to our third proposal: continued denial of the internet to prisoners should result in a recalibration of the pain of imprisonment such that a sentencing reduction should be conferred to prisoners.
Bagaric, Mirko; Fischer, Nick; and Hunter, Dan
"The Hardship That is Internet Deprivation and What it Means for Sentencing: Development of the Internet Sanction and Connectivity for Prisoners,"
Akron Law Review: Vol. 51
, Article 2.
Available at: https://ideaexchange.uakron.edu/akronlawreview/vol51/iss2/2