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August 25, 2008

Still more evidence it's the prison economy, stupid

This article from this weekend's New York Times highlights the important connection between economic realities and prison nation.  Here is how the piece starts:

When residents here heard that the governor wanted to close the 137-year-old Pontiac Correctional Center, taking hundreds of jobs from the area, they mobilized. They held rallies and a parade. Streets were lined with blue and white “Save Our Prison” signs, and people were outfitted in T-shirts to match.

The 12,000 or so residents now find themselves trying to talk Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich, a Democrat, out of closing the town’s second-largest employer to help fill a $700 million hole in the state budget.

Some related posts:

August 25, 2008 in Scope of Imprisonment | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack

August 24, 2008

Effective review of federal uptick in child-porn prosecutions

In today's San Jose Mercury News is this effective article, headlined "Feds push child-porn cases; penalty can be years in prison."  Here are excerpts:

Just a few mouse clicks into the forbidden world of Internet child porn can transform an apparently upstanding individual into a federal prison inmate — doing a long sentence.

That's the harsh reality former KGO radio host Bernie Ward will encounter this week.  The popular and prominent liberal voice on Bay Area radio for decades is scheduled to be sentenced Thursday in San Francisco federal court for distributing sexual images of young children.  The best the 57-year-old Ward can hope for is five years in prison. Setting aside his celebrity status, Ward's case is no aberration. Ward is ensnared in what is becoming one of the U.S. Justice Department's fastest-growing areas of prosecution.

Child-porn crimes have gone from a rarity on federal court dockets to a phenomenon, with prosecutions jumping nationally from a scant 30 in 1995 to more than 2,100 last year, according to a Mercury News analysis of Justice Department data maintained by Syracuse University. In the Bay Area, dozens of federal cases are being filed every year and the U.S. Attorney's Office is on pace to file a record number of child-porn prosecutions in 2008. There were just two child-porn cases filed in the region's federal courts in 1995 — an era when child pornography just began to proliferate on the Web.

Aggressive law enforcement teams — nationally and in the Bay Area — are policing the Internet. Typically, they are catching successful people — engineers, businessmen, professors and lawyers — who are under the false impression that their habit is personal, harmless and anonymous.  But by downloading or sharing sexual images of pre-pubescent children, those who do so find out they are not sequestered by the privacy of their own computers and are shocked when they suddenly find themselves facing the law's wrath... 

For the federal courts, child-porn cases are raising a host of issues, from concerns in the defense bar that prosecutors are casting too broad a net to questions about the severity of the prison sentences, which often carry mandatory minimum terms ordinarily reserved for violent felons in gun cases and major drug dealers. 

"These cases are difficult," said San Jose U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel, who just this summer sent several child-porn defendants to prison. "Many of the defendants have no previous criminal history and have been productive members of the community, and often there are complex psychological reasons why (they) are interested in child pornography.  "At the same time," Fogel added, "the images themselves are truly horrible. Even passive viewers of such material help to make its production profitable."

Some related child porn sentencing posts:

August 24, 2008 in Sex Offender Sentencing | Permalink | Comments (17) | TrackBack