« Ohio — aka the Texas of the north — setting busy execution schedule | Main | "Judge Orders Former Bristol-Myers Executive to Write Book" »

June 12, 2009

ABA Journal covers the controversies over federal child porn sentences

The June issue of the ABA Journal includes this long article on the debate over federal child porn sentencing.  The article is titled, "A Reluctant Rebellion," and here are some excerpts:

[Judge Lynn] Adelman’s criticism [of the child porn sentencing guidelines] goes to the heart of a much larger struggle in the federal courts over the federal sentencing guidelines that apply to computer-based child pornography offenses. Those guidelines tend to treat even first-time offenders with no history of abusing or exploiting children as seriously as murderers, rapists or child molesters.

Critics say the mandatory and recommended pen­alties for child porn offenses under the guidelines far exceed the seriousness of the crime committed by the typical offender who is swapping and down­loading child porn online with other like-minded in­dividuals in the presumed privacy of his own home.... But prosecutors and activists say the proliferation of child pornography on the Internet is an insidious problem that justifies the taking of extreme measures.

It is a debate that pits polite society’s disgust and revulsion against a judge’s solemn duty to impose a penalty that serves the three main purposes of sentencing: to punish the defendant, protect the public and deter the offender from re-offending.

Child porn cases account for about 2 percent of the entire federal criminal caseload, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, but they make up one of the fastest-growing segments of the federal court docket. The number of new cases filed has grown from a few dozen annually in the late 1990s to more than 2,200 in fiscal 2008, ending Sept. 30. That latest figure represents a 33 percent increase over the 2006 fiscal year, and a doubling in the number of new cases since 2003.

The average sentence has lengthened as well, according to the U.S. Sentencing Commission. In 1997, child porn offenders (not including those involved in its production) received an average sentence of less than 21 months in prison. In 2007, the same class of offenders received an average sentence of more than 91 months, an average annual increase of more than seven months per offender and a nearly 350 percent increase over the previous decade.

But those same statistics also show that more than one-third of all child porn defendants sentenced for nonproduction-related offenses in 2007 — 351 out of 1,025 offenders — received sentences below the recommended guidelines. And, in the past two years alone, a small but growing number of federal judges have felt strongly enough about the guidelines to register their objections in the form of a written opinion.

Some related federal child porn prosecution and sentencing posts:

June 12, 2009 at 03:46 PM | Permalink

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451574769e20115710010b0970b

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference ABA Journal covers the controversies over federal child porn sentences:

Comments

ABA Journal covers the controversies over federal child porn sentences

My brother was sentenced on Monday, June 15, 2009 for downloading and having cds with child porn on it. The computer and cds were boxed since he moved into his condo about two years ago. His sentence is 78 months in a federal prison plus 10 years probation. He never had a criminal record, was a manager for a local transportation company along with having a 10 month old baby girl.

The best part of this whole episode, they arrested him back in 2007. He lives in a condo community with children and this community is between two schools. So if he was such a threat, why has he been able to roam freely without anyone watching him?

His computer records showed that he went on a site that he thought was legal for 30 days. He said the girls didn't look like they were under 18. The federal government had to call in a forensic scientist to pick apart the images in order to tell if the the girls were 18 or younger. He was told to take the plea guilty because if it went to trial he could get 10 years or more. This is an individual who served in the Marines, saved the pilot who was shot down in Bosnia and helps his elderly neighbors. Last week he heard a neighbor moaning while emptying his trash, he knocked on the door and when he went in, the little old man told him he fell down the stairs and was laying there for 2 hours before my brother found him.

Most of the middle-class can't afford a good attorney, this was my brother's case. His a attorney never handled a federal case but took his case anyway. The interns in back of me at his hearing told me they were sorry that my brother had this attorney. They even recognized how bad he was. My brother would have done better representing himself. What gets me, we have criminals with long rap sheets of murder, assault, rape and these sick individuals roam the streets again and again. The first time non-violent sex offender gets the book thrown at them plus their name on a sex offender list when they didn't even physically offend anyone. So when he gets out of prison he has to register as a sex offender. Maybe someone in our federal government should look up the word "offender".

Don't get me wrong, my brother should be punished for what he did, but this is a little extreme.

Thank you for your time.

Posted by: lal | Jun 18, 2009 8:58:33 AM

lal--

Sadly, this is how most Americans discover the excesses and cruelties of our "justice system," when someone they care about is crushed by it.

I'm sorry for what your family is going through.

Posted by: John K | Jul 18, 2009 11:01:46 PM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB