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September 24, 2012

Notable contrasts between Irish and US sentencing responses to child porn possession offenses

The Irish Examiner has this notable new piece, headlined "Sentences contrast in Ireland and US," discussing the very different punishment schemes for child porn downloaders in two not-so-different nations.  Here is how the piece gets started:

What is an acceptable sentence for the possession of child pornography? That’s downloading and viewing the images, not being physically present when the abuse was carried out and the images made.

Consider two cases which progressed through the courts on opposite sides of the Atlantic within a year of each other.

In May, a British national, Simeon Betts, appeared in court in Ireland charged with a stash of child pornography which included 50 videos. The material found on three laptops included the rapes of children as young as four, and gardaí said the level of abuse was of the "upmost scale". Adult males were filmed raping the children, and in one instance an animal also featured in the abuse. For the possession of such sickening material, Betts, aged 45, was sentenced at Limerick Circuit Court to four years in prison, with the final two years suspended.

Now consider the case of Daniel Enrique Guevara Vilca, a 26-year-old who appeared in a Florida court room in November. Vilca had been caught with a significant stash of images — he faced 454 counts. Some of the videos and pictures showed boys aged between six and 12 years engaged in sexual activity with adults and each other. For possessing the images, Vilca was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole....

These two cases show the extremes in which different jurisdictions view the crime of child pornography — and how the leniency or severity are both subject to significant scrutiny among their populations.

In America, the US Sentencing Commission is reviewing the sentencing guidelines for the crime. A survey of the country’s federal judges even found that 70% thought the sentences were too high. Many possession offences in the US carry a minimum tariff of five years and the average sentence handed down is seven years.

Here, sentencing for child pornography crimes falls under the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act, 1998. That legislation states that, for producing or distributing child pornography, the maximum sentence is 14 years in prison. For possession, the maximum sentence is five years.

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Comments

One of the worst cases I ever came across in this respect was U.S. v. Mikowski. 20-year-old kid with no history of anything apparently downloaded about 5,000 images through Gnutella. Despite that his psych profile said there was no indication of paraphilia, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison--and that was actually a few years below the guidelines.

What he did was terrible, and I do believe that possession of child pornography should be illegal and punished through a prison term. But I don't see any merit in wasting a life by imposing nearly the same sentence that the actual producers of child pornography would get. A 2 year sentence and a lifetime being branded as a felon would have been more than enough to get the point across for possession.

Posted by: Res ipsa | Sep 24, 2012 10:28:22 AM

Res Ipsa, you are spot on. Our need to impose excessive punishment tarnishes the system of justice just as much as the imposition of too lenient punishment. The following authorities support you.

“The increased prison population is due in large part to longer sentences. For the same crimes, American prisoners receive sentences twice as long as English prisoners, three times as long as Canadian prisoners, four times as long as Dutch prisoners, five to 10 times as long as French prisoners, and five times as long as Swedish prisoners. Yet these countries' rates of violent crime are lower than ours, and their rates of property crime are comparable.”;U.S. v. Bannister, 786 F.Supp.2d 617 (E.D.N.Y. 2011); see Testimony of Justice Anthony Kennedy before the Senate Judiciary Committee February 14, 2007 in response to Senator Whitehouse (“Our sentences are too long, our sentences are too severe, our sentences are too harsh... [and because there are so few pardons] there is no compassion in the system. There’s no mercy in the system.”), video link accessible at Professor Berman’s Sentencing Law and Policy Blog of Feb. 15, 2007);

“The post-Booker system does not solve the biggest problem with the pre-Booker system – that its architecture and institutional arrangements predisposed the Commission’s rule-making process to become a one-way upward ratchet which raised sentences often and lowered them virtually never.” Frank O. Bowman III, Nothing is Not Enough: Fix the Absurd Post-Booker Federal Sentencing System,Federal Seentencing Reporter, Vol. 24, No. 5, 2012

“Contemporary policies concerning crime and punishment are the harshest in American history and of any Western country.”Michael Tonry, The Handbook of Crime And Punishment (Oxford Press 1998) paperback ed. at page 3. “American punishment is comparatively harsh, comparatively degrading, comparatively slow to show mercy (Oxford Press 2003) paperback ed. 19.

Posted by: Michael R. Levine | Sep 24, 2012 1:04:17 PM

I just always hope that the people who get sentenced to life without parole, etc. are the exact people who support it. Or at least their children. We need to end their gene lines.

All of this just fully justifies my opinion that most U.S. governments are nothing but criminal regimes that deserve very little respect. They are not to be embraced, interacted with, or supported. They are the enemy and they are to be mistrusted.

Every time one of these overblown, over-funded, thieving criminal regimes does one of their little "sex offender" compliance propaganda stunts or some such similar nonsense, that makes regaining respect for them ever more impossible. But who gives damn, right? As long as I don't have any Halloween decorations, everything's good.

Posted by: FRegistryTerrorists | Sep 24, 2012 1:33:49 PM

I agree that in general our state and federal sentences are excessive, if not draconian and therefore, unjust. But as long as politicians and judges cater to the public passions, nothing is to be done.

Posted by: Texas prosecutor | Sep 24, 2012 3:19:37 PM

Texas prosecutor --

"I agree that in general our state and federal sentences are excessive, if not draconian and therefore, unjust. But as long as politicians and judges cater to the public passions, nothing is to be done."

I would respectfully submit that there is something to be done: Those inclined to indulge in this sort of behavior could exercise self-restraint.

Isn't it a bit odd for a prosecutor to see every supposed excess as the system's fault? Do you think the defendant's private passions, and not just public passions, might be part of the problem? Aren't you tempermentally better suited to become a defense lawyer, what with your contempt for "public passions?" And do you draw any line between public passions and public judgment?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Sep 24, 2012 4:32:27 PM

Bill, I've been prosecuting for 25 years--and I'm as tough as they come, and I respect your work in the U.S. Attorneys Office. Nevertheless, the fact remains that in my view we too often punish excessively. Defendants who commit crimes deserve to punished, but punished appropriately and proportionately. All I'm saying is that too many sentences are too long and they demean the system of justice.

Posted by: Texas prosecutor | Sep 24, 2012 6:41:29 PM

Bill, you ask me: "Aren't you tempermentally better suited to become a defense lawyer, what with your contempt for "public passions."

I answer, no. I've always been guided by the principle that the government wins whenever justice is done. I don't have "contempt" for public passions. It's just that I've always seen my role to pursue justice regardless, and in spite of, public passion. If public passion were to control, we would go back to the lynch mobs, as with the case of Leo Frank. I'm sure that upon reflection, you agree with me.

Posted by: Texas prosecutor | Sep 24, 2012 6:48:24 PM

In my 30 years of experience with the criminal justice system in both state and federal court, I agree in large part with Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy when he states (as set forth in the comment from Michael Levine above):

"Our sentences are too long, our sentences are too severe, our sentences are too harsh... [and because there are so few pardons] there is no compassion in the system. There’s no mercy in the system.”

Posted by: Dave from California | Sep 24, 2012 6:56:18 PM

I agree with Texas prosecutor above and with Professor Michael Tonry, quoted above: "Contemporary policies concerning crime and punishment are the harshest in American history and of any Western country.”

I wonder if Professor Berman would weigh in on Professor Tonry's assertion. Is he correct? In my 20 years of watching the state and federal courts, I have no doubt he is, but am open to being persuaded I'm wrong.

Posted by: onlooker | Sep 24, 2012 7:00:08 PM

As quoted above in U.S. v. Bannister, 786 F.Supp.2d 617 (E.D.N.Y. 2011), the district court observed that "For the same crimes, American prisoners receive sentences twice as long as English prisoners, three times as long as Canadian prisoners, four times as long as Dutch prisoners, five to 10 times as long as French prisoners, and five times as long as Swedish prisoners. Yet these countries' rates of violent crime are lower than ours, and their rates of property crime are comparable.”

Can anyone please tell me why on earth we punish so much more harshly than the countries mentioned here?

Posted by: anon14 | Sep 24, 2012 7:05:49 PM

Texas prosecutor above makes reference to the case of Leo Frank. I am not familiar with the reference. Can someone enlighten me. Thanks

Posted by: student 1 | Sep 24, 2012 7:29:31 PM

'Can anyone please tell me why on earth we punish so much more harshly than the countries mentioned here? '

YES,too many like minded people holding positions of authority similar to what Bill Otis possesed in a previous life, tipping the balance and calling the shots. They are an aging generation that are just taking way too long to pass into the next world all due to the benefits of modern medicine.

Posted by: Destiny | Sep 24, 2012 7:30:05 PM

student 1 above asks for an explanation of the case of Leo Frank. You should go to Wikipedia for a good summary. The case led to an opinion by the Supreme Court Frank v. Mangum, 237 U.S. 309, 35 S.Ct. 582 (1915). Justice Holmes's dissent, in my view, ultimately led to the expansion of federalhabeas corpus--which, unfortunately the AEDPA has now substantialy cut back. But here are excerpts from Wikipedia article:

Leo Max Frank (April 17, 1884 – August 17, 1915) was a Jewish-American factory superintendent whose hanging in 1915 by a lynch mob, planned and led by prominent citizens in Marietta, Georgia, drew attention to antisemitism in the United States. An engineer and superintendent of the National Pencil Company in Atlanta, Frank was convicted on August 25, 1913, for the murder of one of his factory workers, 13-year-old Mary Phagan. She had been strangled on April 26, and was found dead in the factory cellar the next day. Frank was the last person known to have seen her alive, and there were allegations that he had flirted with her in the past.

His trial became the focus of powerful class, regional and political interests. Raised in New York, he was cast as a representative of Yankee capitalism, a rich northern Jew lording it over vulnerable working women, as the historian Albert Lindemann put it. Former U.S. Representative Thomas E. Watson used the sensational coverage of the case in his own publications to push for a revival of the Ku Klux Klan, calling Frank a member of the Jewish aristocracy who had pursued "Our Little Girl" to a hideous death. Frank and his lawyers resorted to stereotypes too, accusing another suspect — Jim Conley, a Black factory worker who testified against Frank — of being especially disposed to lying and murdering because of his race.

There was jubilation in the streets when Frank was found guilty and sentenced to death. By June 1915 his appeals had failed, but Governor John M. Slaton believed there had been a miscarriage of justice, and commuted the sentence to life imprisonment—to great local outrage. A crowd of 1,200 marched on Slaton's home in protest, and two months later Frank was kidnapped from prison by a lynch mob of 25 armed men who called themselves "Knights of Mary Phagan." Frank was driven 150 miles to Frey's Gin, near Phagan's home in Marietta, and murdered. A crowd gathered after the hanging; one man repeatedly stomped on Frank's face, while others took photographs, pieces of his nightshirt, and bits of the rope to sell as souvenirs.

On March 11, 1986, the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles granted Frank a pardon, citing the state's failure to protect him or prosecute his killers, though they stopped short of exonerating him. The names of Frank's murderers were well-known locally but were not made public until January 7, 2000, when Stephen Goldfarb, an Atlanta librarian and former history professor, published the Phagan-Kean list[5] on his website. The Washington Post writes that it includes several prominent citizens — a former governor, the son of a senator, a Methodist minister, a state legislator, and a former state Superior Court judge — their names matching those on Marietta's street signs, office buildings, shopping centers, and law offices today.

In 1982, nearly 70 years after the murder, Alonzo Mann, who had been Frank's office boy, told authorities that he had seen Jim Conley alone at the factory carrying Phagan's body.[81] This contradicted Conley's testimony that Frank had paid him to move the girl's body. Mann swore in an affidavit that Conley had threatened to kill him if he reported what he had seen. When the boy told his family, his parents made him swear not to tell anyone else. Mann finally decided to make a statement in what he called an effort to die in peace. He passed a lie detector test, and died three years later at the age of 85.[82] Mann's deposition was the basis of an attempt to obtain a posthumous pardon for Frank from the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles. The effort was led by Charles Wittenstein, southern counsel for the Anti-Defamation League, and Dale Schwartz, an Atlanta lawyer, though Mann's testimony was not sufficient to settle the issue.

The board also reviewed the files from Slaton's commutation decision.[83] It denied the pardon in 1983, hindered in its investigation by the lack of available records. Conley had died in 1962. The state's files on the case were lost[84] and with them the opportunity to apply modern forensic techniques.[85] It concluded that, "After exhaustive review and many hours of deliberation, it is impossible to decide conclusively the guilt or innocence of Leo M. Frank. For the board to grant a pardon, the innocence of the subject must be shown conclusively."[86] At the time, the lead editorial in the Atlanta Constitution began, 'Leo Frank has been lynched a second time'.[87]
Frank supporters submitted a second application for pardon in 1986, asking the state only to recognize its culpability over his death. The board granted the pardon on March 11, 1986.[88] It said:

Without attempting to address the question of guilt or innocence, and in recognition of the State's failure to protect the person of Leo M. Frank and thereby preserve his opportunity for continued legal appeal of his conviction, and in recognition of the State's failure to bring his killers to justice, and as an effort to heal old wounds, the State Board of Pardons and Paroles, in compliance with its Constitutional and statutory authority, hereby grants to Leo M. Frank a Pardon.

In 1995 on the 80th anniversary of the lynching, Rabbi Steven Lebow of Temple Kol Emeth placed a plaque on a building near the site of the hanging; it read "Wrongly accused. Falsely convicted. Wantonly murdered."[6] On March 7, 2008, a State historical marker was erected by the Georgia Historical Society, the Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation, and Temple Kol Emeth, near the building at 1200 Roswell Road, Marietta. The memorial reads:
Near this location on August 17, 1915, Leo M. Frank, the Jewish superintendent of the National Pencil Company in Atlanta, was lynched for the murder of thirteen-year-old Mary Phagan, a factory employee. A highly controversial trial fueled by societal tensions and anti-Semitism resulted in a guilty verdict in 1913. After Governor John M. Slaton commuted his sentence from death to life in prison, Frank was kidnapped from the state prison in Milledgeville and taken to Phagan's hometown of Marietta where he was hanged before a local crowd. Without addressing guilt or innocence, and in recognition of the state's failure to either protect Frank or bring his killers to justice, he was granted a posthumous pardon in 1986.[90]
On October 20, 2003, the 90th anniversary of Anti-Defamation League's founding, a monument dedicated by ADL was placed near the inside entrance of the Mount Carmel Cemetery in Queens, NY.

LEO FRANK: THE TRIAL OF LEO FRANK IN 1913 WAS MOTIVATED BY THE RAMPANT ANTI-SEMITISM OF THE TIME. THE FOUNDING OF THE ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE THAT SAME YEAR WAS MOTIVATED BY A PASSION TO ERADICATE SUCH INJUSTICE AND BIGOTRY. DESPITE HIS INNOCENCE, FRANK WAS ABDUCTED FROM JAIL IN 1915 AND LYNCHED. ADL REMEMBERS THE VICTIM LEO FRANK AND REDEDICATES ITSELF TO ENSURING THERE WILL BE NO MORE VICTIMS OF INJUSTICE AND INTOLERANCE.

Posted by: Michael R. Levine | Sep 24, 2012 7:46:34 PM

Destiny --

I'm thrilled when a liberal is honest enough to say what he/she really thinks, to wit, that those believing in personal responsibility "are just taking way too long to pass into the next world," i.e., should drop dead, and the sooner the better.

But not to worry -- I know that by tomorrow, you guys will be yelping about the absence of civility and all that good stuff.

Far out. Thanks for you revealing candor.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Sep 24, 2012 7:54:35 PM

Texas prosecutor --

Thank you for your response. Let me ask you whether you perceive and difference among public passion, legitimate public concern, and public judgment.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Sep 24, 2012 7:56:52 PM

I agree with my friend Michael R. Levine that the murder of Leo Frank was an appalling episode of anti-Semitism. Where we would part ways is that I would have sought the death penalty for his murderers.

People simply must live with democratically enacted legal process, no matter how erroneous they think its conclusions to have been in any particular instance. This is certain to produce heartburn -- as I still have heartburn about the erroneous acquittal of child killer Casey Anthony -- but that is the price of the longer run benefits of the rule of law. Indeed, it is the price of escaping life in the jungle, which is what we saw with the Leo Frank murder.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Sep 24, 2012 8:10:41 PM

"Those inclined to indulge in this sort of behavior could exercise self-restraint."

Not surprising that Bill would assume this position. It is certainly understandable that someone who served as a US Attorney would make no allowance for a criminal having succumbed to a power greater than oneself, that being addiction. There are many people who almost literally stumble into child pornography as a result of a pornography addiction; as one becomes more desensitized to "average" pornography, a porn addict, like any other addict, will need something "stronger" to get their fix.

Now, to be sure, many people who "traffic" (and I use that term VERY loosely) in child pornography are truly sick individuals, some of whom are a danger to society and should probably be incapacitated for a long, long time. And many times the judge recognizes these individuals and deals with them accordingly. But often these people are the exception rather than the rule.

I'm not going to try to advocate for a complete legal pass on this conduct, because it is illegal, just like drugs are illegal, etc., but when are we as a society going to realize that excessive punishment, combined with little effort at rehabilitation, is not the answer?

Posted by: centrist | Sep 24, 2012 9:00:40 PM

Bill,

I don't think it is at all improper for a prosecutor to be concerned with public passion and its potential ill-effect on legislation, especially legislation affecting the prosecutor's profession. In fact, I applaud it, and every former AUSA I work with in private practice fits that mold. One can, at the same time, promote self-restraint and also advocate for humane, rational, effective sentences.

As for the line between public passion and public judgment, it is at least that judgment involves a careful assessment informed by both common morality as well as the social sciences--such as the Sentencing Commission model--whereas passion is visceral response. I know of few examples of sound exercises of judgment predominated by passion.

Finally, there may be more merit than you think to the issue of systemic fault in the U.S. justice system. What do you make of the fact that so many other industrialized nations have more liberal criminal justice policies AND lower crime rates than the U.S.? While the matter is surely quite complex, I think there is enough fodder for serious questions.

AO

Posted by: AnonymousOne | Sep 24, 2012 9:21:17 PM

centrist --

"Not surprising that Bill would assume this position. It is certainly understandable that someone who served as a US Attorney would make no allowance for a criminal having succumbed to a power greater than oneself, that being addiction."

To the contrary, I think addiction is an extremely serious problem, to the point that it is an insuperable obstacle to the libertarian argument for drug legalization. Some people cannot control it, and when they get hooked on a sufficiently dangerous drug, they're going to wind up with a ruined life. Either that, or they're going to wind up dead.

None of that, however, is to gainsay that addiction can be broken if the incentives are strong enough. We know this because it has been done repeatedly. Moreover, an addiction to child pornography is more damaging than an addiction to, for example, heroin, because by definition, CP involves the exploitation and degradation of others (specifically, children), whereas no such spread-around evil is necessarily involved in drug addiction.

The best answer is not to start down the addiction path, and the prospect of harsh punishment provides a healthy disincentive.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Sep 24, 2012 10:23:33 PM

Bill,

I'll chime in to say that I think the view the harsh punishments provide disincentives for addicts is not borne out by my experience, nor the experiences of anyone else I know caught underfoot. This is so, quite simply, because one (me) rationalizes their own behavior into being something other than illegal. I knew, for example, that child pornography was illegal, but I didn't believe that what I was engaged in was illegal. For instance the pictures that I had downloaded did not involve any sexual acts, and so I was able to tell myself a story about how this was different. The child pornography on my computer was part of a much larger collection of legal pornography, and so I could tell myself that I was somehow different, special, that the rules didn't apply to me. You can hear the same story from alcoholics, drug addicts, gambling addicts, etc etc.

Denial is a powerful thing, and it doesn't make sense -- at least not looking back on it. But when you're there in it, it's a different story. The thing is that the threat of some very distant punishment, even if it is horrible and life-ending, is insufficient to smash through that denial. For me it wasn't even thinking that there is a low probability that I'm not going to get caught, and therefore my behavior was worth risking having my life ripped to shreds -- it was that I didn't believe I was doing anything wrong. I justified and rationalized my behavior, and made it different from what I was reading about in the papers -- compartmentalized it. The process that went on with me, I assure you, is not unique.

So it doesn't matter how harsh you make the punishment. If someone doesn't believe what they are doing is wrong, or illegal, then you could execute them in the public square and it wouldn't make a bit of difference, except that you've forfeited any sense of proportionality to the offense.

The course of how that happens, how it develops, is not instantaneous and it wasn't overnight -- at least not for me, nor others that I know. These things rarely are. It's kind of like the frog in the boiling water -- if you drop him in he'll jump right out, but if you slowly heat the water up he'll cook. You lose all sense of when the water is getting too hot.

None of that is to say that there isn't responsibility, culpability, and punishment to be apportioned -- but it is to say the giving someone LWOP for dirty pictures they downloaded to send a message is both ineffective and just as gross as the behavior the sentence purports to punish.

Posted by: Guy | Sep 24, 2012 11:06:26 PM

"Moreover, an addiction to child pornography is more damaging than an addiction to, for example, heroin, because by definition, CP involves the exploitation and degradation of others (specifically, children), whereas no such spread-around evil is necessarily involved in drug addiction."

Really, Bill? How about the regular violence involved in drug trafficking? If a CP possessor is responsible for the exploitation and degradation of children, which I am NOT disputing by the way, then why isn't a drug addict responsible for every injury or death that is a result of the drug trade?

"The best answer is not to start down the addiction path, and the prospect of harsh punishment provides a healthy disincentive."

Best answer, perhaps, but ONLY answer? Hardly, and honestly that's where I feel we've gone wrong: believing that the only acceptable disincentive is sufficiently scaring people by setting harsh examples to keep them from starting down "the addiction path." The truth is, it's not that simple. We are all human beings, imperfect at our very core, and often easily led astray. If we weren't, we wouldn't even be having this discussion, as it would be pretty cut and dry; either you're bad or you're good.

But rather than perhaps helping these people and trying to lead them "back to the light" society instead immediately dismisses them as "icky pervs" and wants to lock them up and throw away the key.

Posted by: centrist | Sep 24, 2012 11:16:55 PM

centrist --

I am not disputing that drug consumers share in responsibility for the violence in the drug trade. It's a matter of attenuation. An individual consumer of CP knows directly and immediately the people whose exploitation he has helped bring about, because he's looking at pictures of them. A druggie will also usually share in responsibility for the violence in the drug trade, but at least he doesn't have the evidence of the violent outcroppings of his participation right in front of his face while he's getting high.

I am, however, happy to have an ally here in my opposition to illegal drug use. I wish I had more.

"The truth is, it's not that simple. We are all human beings, imperfect at our very core, and often easily led astray."

Two responses. First, the great majority of the population does not engage in either CP or consumption of dangerous and illegal drugs, so I don't believe these things come about simply because of inherent human frailty. They come about because people make conscious choices, and some folks are insufficiently self-restrained successfully to resist temptation.

Look, I'd like to have more money. But I don't rob the bank, first because I think stealing is wrong, but also because I know there will be harsh punishment if I'm caught. That punishment disincentivizes bad behavior is knowledge as old as civilization (and indeed is a key component in constructing civilization). This ancient knowledge did not become false last week because some defense lawyer cites an academic "study" about brain lesions or the latest "syndrome."

Second, the criminal justice system is not a conveyor belt for the delivery of social services to those who have done the least to deserve them. More broadly, criminal law rests on the view that adults of sound mind are responsible for what they do. It's up to individuals to behave of their own volition, not up to the rest of us to pander to the minority who won't.

It's just not that hard to stay out of jail, as attested to by the fact that the huge majority of the people in this country aren't there and will never go there. For those who do, sure, I'm all for providing help, but they're going to have to want it in their hearts or it won't do any good.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Sep 25, 2012 8:06:24 AM

I agree that society should not reward a person for not stealing. But the inkling to steal typically stems for calculated greed, not mental illness or predisposed orientation. Nobody wakes up one morning and says "hey, I'm going to be attracted to children." Given that this is an urge that is most often the product of mental illness or sexual orientation, I don't think it is so shocking to deliver social services to these people. Society is telling them that despite their unchosen mental illness or unchosen orientation, they can never act on it--they are to forgo not just interpersonal sexual contact, but all images of it, for life. Instead of lending support to those who face this daunting, trying battle, society heaps scorn on them. I'm not even talking about those who offend. We hate anyone who has these thoughts. There is no compassion for the illness or orientation to which they fall victim.

If society were indeed serious about this problem, in addition to the criminal justice system--a necessary component--it would also focus more funds toward psychological, social, and neurobiological treatments and interventions. But we don't care. We don't want to even think about people with such urges. If we do manage to think about them, it is only to express our deep hatred and desire that these unfortunates perish from the world.

History teaches that complex, entrenched problems are rarely solved this way.

Posted by: AnonymousOne | Sep 25, 2012 10:04:48 AM

Anonymous One --

I am sometimes attracted to and tempted by other men's wives, but I don't act on it because it's immoral.

That people have inborn sexual urges is true of virtually everyone over 12. But everyone knows the sexual exploitation of children is wrong, and you have to refrain.

Civilized life requires self control. There are people who get off on sadism, too, and the answer is that they are going to control themselves or we will do it for them. Inborn temptation is just no excuse. If it were, civilized life could not exist.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Sep 25, 2012 12:47:09 PM

Bill,

I think you have a fundamentally flawed view of pedophilia (as a factual and moral matter).

I am not arguing that people with innate desires, or desires born of mental illness, be free to act in accordance with those desires. Nor have I ever argued that inborn temptation--a very benign phrasing, I believe misleadingly so--is an excuse (I say misleading in the sense that it would be misleading to say I have an "inborn temptation" for heterosexuality--it's a bit more than that). Instead, what I am arguing is that it is fundamentally different from, for instance, your hypothetical. You may be attracted to other men's wives, but at least you can have your own. Your orientation is possible. The pedophile cannot, nor can he even have a picture. And, as I said, rather than support such people in this daunting task, we deride them and their sick desires.

I think that as long as we think that this is simply a matter of temptation and choice much like the temptation to steal a candy or sleep with a friend's wife, we are not going to be much closer to solving the problem in any lasting way. As I said, the criminal justice system--and incarceration--should be one of, but not the only, tool that is used.

AO

Posted by: AnonymousOne | Sep 25, 2012 1:33:41 PM

So I was just reading the law that dictates how I may petition the criminal state in which I live to be removed from their harassment Registry and I came across the part of it that allows for a person to be removed if the person "Is required to register solely because he or she was convicted of kidnapping or false imprisonment involving a minor and such offense did not involve a sexual offense against such minor or an attempt to commit a sexual offense against such minor."

That is in there because several years ago, people who committed such crimes were whining that they were listed on the SEX OFFENDER Registry and they did not commit a sexual offense. Many of those people committed crimes using weapons and many of them have been committing many crimes for a long time. Some of them pointed guns at people. THOSE people were upset because they were listed on the harassment Registry and the genius criminal legislators agreed that they should not be. There was no talk of creating the other Registries and none have been created.

So where are the rest of the Registries? The SEX OFFENDER Registries are not about protecting anyone. Those are lies told by evil, thieving people who can't leave other people alone.

In honor of the continuing nonsense, I will eat dinner these evening in an establishment that caters to unsupervised children. Then I will probably go to a huge mall where children are similarly unsupervised. And I will also speak with my real estate agents about acquiring more property that I will eventually use to harm people who support the Registries.

In case anyone is interested in that, owning buildings of townhomes is a great tool. You can have a Registered person living in the building and you will still get people who will move into one of the units, find out their neighbor is Registered, and then break their lease by moving out. It will happen over and over again. And if that is not working well enough for you, you can have the Registered people move out of the units until other people move in and then have a Registered person move in. I guarantee you will have people breaking their leases and it is trivial to sue them for the entire damages. It is a pretty good way to target people who support the Registries. There are many others, a person only needs to think. That is what all 700K+ people listed on the harassment Registries needs to be doing. Declare war on the terrorists.

Posted by: FRegistryTerrorists | Sep 26, 2012 4:33:56 PM

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