New Jersey eyes reduced sexting penalties for teens

As part of the texting revolution, sexting has officially been added to the list of things parents have to worry about. What may seem like a fun, flirty way to explore ones sexuality can actually leave a lasting digital impression, potentially causing problems down the line including prosecution or jail time.

But legislators in New Jersey recently unveiled a plan to reduce harsh penalties for first-time sexting teen offenders.

In some states, sexting has been deemed “child pornography,” oftentimes commanding harsh sentences and even jail time for offenders.

State Assembly woman Pam Lampitt of Camden, New Jersey is fronting a bill designed to reduce strict punishments because she feels young people shouldn’t be in jail cells next to drug addicts or violent offenders simply for sexting.

“We need to create a path that places education and forgiveness before arrest and prosecution,” said Lampitt, a Democrat. “Young people – especially teen girls – need to understand that sending inappropriate pictures is not only potentially illegal, but can leave an indelible mark on them socially and educationally.”

Furthermore, Lampitt hopes to teach teens about the consequences from sexting instead of handing them a black smear on their criminal records.

Lawmakers agree this is a problem too ubiquitous to ignore. A 2008 survey by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy showed that on in five teens, including 11% of girls age 13 to 16 have sent nudie pics or videos of themselves to friends or various websites.

In a unanimous decision by both parties, the bill is headed for the Assembly and the Senate so it can indeed become law.

“There are certain aspects (of life) in which the criminal law should not be involved, and this is one of them,” said Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll, a Republican from Morristown.

Part of the law would allow for country prosecutors to send offenders to a diversionary program for education and what I can only imagine will be sexting rehab.

This also means the attorney general’s office will have to create the sexting rehab program to warn kids about the penalties and social consequences of sexting, the details of which have not yet been announced. 

(Via Huffington Post