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January 8, 2013

Intriguing New Yorker article on child porn, sex offenders and civil commitment

The latest New Yorker issue has this interesting article headlined "The Science of Sex Abuse: Is it right to imprison people for heinous crimes they have not yet committed?". The lengthy article, which rewards taking to time to read it, give particular attention to one particular sex offender's experience with child pornography and federal civil commitment procedures.  Here is an excerpt:

John pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography and to using the Internet to persuade a minor to have sex, and was sentenced to fifty-three months in federal prison — a relatively light sentence by today’s standards.  In the past fifteen years, sentences for possession or distribution of child pornography — a federal crime, since images cross state lines — have increased in length by more than five hundred per cent.  The average sentence is now a hundred and nineteen months, which is about the same as the average punishment for a physical sex crime.

Child pornography didn’t become a priority for federal law enforcement until the mid-nineties, when the Internet, offering a fun-house reflection of the spectrum of human sexuality, exposed a previously invisible population of pedophiles.  Chat rooms have spawned an underground subculture in which social status is based on comprehensive libraries of images.  Many users consider themselves “collectors,” trading pictures until they assemble sets that feature certain children, stars on the Internet, being sexually abused over time.

In a study of child pornography, the historian Philip Jenkins, of Penn State, found that chat rooms foster a kind of “bandit culture.” Self-described “Loli fans” see themselves as part of a subversive fraternity, unified by the pursuit of forbidden pleasures.  There is a hierarchy of users: newbies, lurkers, traders, and, at the top, the pornographers themselves—“kings of the rooms,” as John told me.  He said that the most sought-after images were new and made in America, and showed interracial couplings.  The more taboos broken, the better.  Members reinforced one another’s desires, engaging in communal rationalization. “We’d pull at evidence from the dawn of photography to prove that child sexuality was once acceptable,” John said.  “Then we could say, ‘See, it’s society — not me!’ ”

January 8, 2013 at 11:33 PM | Permalink

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I work as a reader and writer for a local community college.

My questions regarding civil commitment are two:
1. Is it used on both genders, or is it sexist against men?
2. Does civil commitment and post-imprisonment confinement increase the liklihood of unrest among those inmates subject to it where they might eventually feel that they have nothing to lose any more by targeting guards and staff members there for murder or for hostage-taking as a way of venting their rage against post-imprisonment confinement? This certainly happened with Attica and Lucasville inmates between 1971 and 1993. Why would civil commitment institutions be any more immune to such militant inmate unrest in the future?

Posted by: bill delzell | Jan 9, 2013 10:49:55 AM

bill, women have been civilly commited as sex offenders in Virginia - the number is very small but it is consistent with the fact that approximately 90% of all people convicted of sex offenses are male.

and i am opposed to civil commitment of sex offenders - the civil commitment standards are different and much lower than normal and the cases have made it much worse for all people with mental illness or intellectual disability in the criminal justice system. And its total doublespeak to say that a person is sane enough to convict and punish and then too dangerous to release - especially when as is almost always the case there is no effort to provide treatment while in prison. i also know that even the governmental officials admit that there is no treatment for a sex offender - that is an argument for harsher initial sentences for rapists and child molesters not civil commitment. If a sex offender is in fact suffering from serious mental illness and in need of treatment they can be civilly commited the same way that any other inmate is.

Posted by: Erika | Jan 9, 2013 11:09:19 AM

Thanks for your comments. Do you have any information on the second question that I posed: does civil commitment of inmates beyond their sentences increase the danger of another Attica or Lucasville type inmate uprising, where civally committed detainees may want to vent their rage at their post-imprisonment confinement by targeting guards and staff at the facility either for murder or hostage-taking as a way of venting their anger. Since civil commitment for most of those affected is a de-facto life sentence under prison-like conditions, the threat of another life sentence or even of the death penalty on top of that for murdering or assaulting a corrections officer or staff member at a civil commitment facility may not be much of a deterrent to a civally committed detainee. Frankly, I am surprised that most civil commitment facilities have managed to thus far avoid any Attica or Lucasville uprisings. I think it's just luck, but luck often does not last forever. Or are civally committed predators more docile than most long-term inmates?

Posted by: bill delzell | Jan 9, 2013 11:42:37 AM

I'm with you bill. I know I would consider it an illegal imprisonment and would have no problem leaving it anyway i could no matter who i had to hurt or kill and then after being forced into violence to free myself. I'd certainly move onto the assholes who put me there!

As for this so-called study. What a waste of time and ink. Last time i looked a Historian documented history! They did not analyze it and create bogus reports!

Posted by: rodsmith | Jan 9, 2013 11:21:28 PM

Ok that's it we're DEAD!

"And its total doublespeak to say that a person is sane enough to convict and punish and then too dangerous to release - especially when as is almost always the case there is no effort to provide treatment while in prison."

Erika and i agree on something!

Posted by: rodsmith | Jan 9, 2013 11:23:16 PM

Let's not forget Erika that the fucktards working for our criminal govt usualy only manage to decide to do this usualy as the individual is packing thier shit to leave!

Posted by: rodsmith | Jan 9, 2013 11:24:33 PM

From the article:

"At a professional workshop, Hernández explained that he created a climate of “systematic pressure,” so that inmates would “put all the cards on the table,” abandoning a “life style of manipulation.” Patients were required to compose lists of people they had sexually harmed, which they updated every few months. At daily community meetings, when offenders insisted that they had nothing left to disclose, other prisoners accused them of being in denial or “resistant to change.” If they failed to accept responsibility, they were expelled from the program.
. . .
"One child-pornography convict, Markis Revland, told the judge at his civil-commitment hearing that when prisoners discover a sex offender among them “they’ll go to great lengths to stab that person.” He requested treatment at Butner after being raped at knifepoint in a Kansas penitentiary. He was encouraged by the psychology staff at Butner to “get it all out,” and came up with a hundred and forty-nine victims. Like other patients, he kept a “cheat sheet” in his cell so that he could remember his victims’ ages and the dates that he’d abused them. There was no evidence for the crimes, thirty-four of which would have occurred during a time when Revland was incarcerated. At his hearing, the judge concluded that his crimes were the “product of his imagination, not actual events.” After having been held in prison nearly five years beyond the expiration of his criminal sentence, Revland was allowed to go home."

_________________

This is one instance where the term "Orwellian" is not hyperbole. So these guys are told that if they don't keep coming up with new crimes to admit, they're in denial and not cooperating, but if they do keep coming up with new crimes, then they're dangerous predators. Next we'll hear that mutants like Hernandez will require them to change the way they talk, to describe their imaginary crimes as "double plus bad" acts. Maybe they'll have a daily hour of hate (oh wait, we already have that--it's called the Nancy Grace Show).

Seriously, this what we've come to in the 21st century?

Posted by: C.E. | Jan 10, 2013 12:02:36 AM

Do I understand that the staff at this civil commitment center even had detainees make up crimes that they had NOT committed so that they would not be, "in denial?" Isn't getting an inmate to lie about a crime potentially a felony in itself, either for the inmate who fabricated the story just to please the psychiatrist, or for the authorities who demanded this false statement if it could be proven that the authorities used coercion to obtain the false confession? I thought we called that prosecutorial misconduct.

I am a reader/writer at a local community college

Posted by: william r. delzell | Jan 10, 2013 10:16:56 AM

In response to rodsmith. Do you know of any instances at any of our country's civil commitment centers where detainees have actually threatened or endangered guards and staff there, and, if so, what happened to these detainees? Did they get stiff prison sentences including the death penalty in the event that their rebelliousness claimed the life, intentionally or unintentionally, of any guard or staff member there? Or are the inmates at these civil commitment centers docile by nature?

We used to think that black convicts in Northern penetentiaries were docile until Attica, Soledad, Lucasville, and other prisons erupted during the early 1970's and 1990's. We used to think that male gays were passive until the 1969 Stonwell Riot in New York City against police who constantly shook down gay bars suddenly occurred. When these gays booby-traped the police after the latter made one of their late night raids, law enforcement and right-wing bigots found out a little differently.

Once again, I am a reader/writer for a local community college.

Posted by: william r. delzell | Jan 10, 2013 10:26:24 AM

The problem william is the govt would never admit it happened. It would all be swept under the rug as normal industrial accidents or other ordinary everyday actions.


That will continue till it happens somewhere they can't cover it up.

Who knows how many of the hundreds of so-called industiral accidently explosions around the country migh thave been a pissed of registrant!

Posted by: rodsmith | Jan 10, 2013 1:35:56 PM

william r. delzell --

Is it your view that the murder of prison guards by inmates is an encouraging sign of their "rebelliousness"?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jan 10, 2013 1:59:33 PM

I need to clear the air here. I owe Bill Otis an apology. At no time did I say that detainees SHOULD harm or murder their keepers while in civil commitment. I had MEANT to say that keeping somebody beyond his or her term of imprisonment might eventually give prisoners no incentive to behave themselves any more while in custody and to, instead, vent their pent-up frustrations over post-sentence confinement by targeting their most convenient scape-goats: the staff and guards as symbols of their continued confinement. The younger hot-heads among the detainees would be more likely than the older detainees to resort to this violence if such a confrontation might occur.

No! I pray that this does NOT happen as there are many DECENT corrections officers and staff who are genuinely trying to do their job, many of whom have families of their own on the outside. But the point is that since the guards and staff have the MOST proximity to these detainees, it stands to reason that, in the event these detainees, should suddenly quit being docile and start becoming bitter, these detainees might go after the most visible and proximate symbol of their continued confinement. No, I do NOT advocate such a confrontation, but fear that it might eventually happen even if takes a long time from now to ever do so. I know a Martin Luther King, Jr.-type person would go to great lengths to defuse such a situation. The only way I could think of defusing it is to give these detainees positive incentives to behave themselves.

Posted by: william r. delzell | Jan 10, 2013 6:57:24 PM

Sorry willilam but the United States for all time killed the excuse "i was just following orders"

Under the law after the WW II if you know or should have known the order was illegal and you follow it! Your just as guiltiy as the ass hole who issued it.

Just ask the last few 90year old ex nazi prison guards who have been deported from the former United States!

I am a lot more willing to excuse thier so-called conduct. If they had disobeyed they would have been shot by the gestapo.

Sorry but no way in hell is it legal under our constution to decise

Someone is sane enough to charge
sane enough to take to trial
sane enough to get a verdict
sane enough to get a prison sentence
sane enough to serve that sentence

then only as it is finishing to suddenly be RULED NUTS and locked up possibley forever!

I really don't give a shit what those retards on the bench say!

So anyone who supports any part if it can just take their chances.

Posted by: rodsmith | Jan 11, 2013 1:11:00 AM

william, almost without exception, civilly committed sex offenders are kept in seperate "treatment"/hospital facilities and not prisons. In those facilities people will have much more rights and less restrictive conditions of confinement than in prisons. Civil commitment also requires peridoic review - so detainees do have at least a slight chance at obtaining release. Many of the civl committees are still on probation or parole as well. A riot would lower the chances of release to zero and make the chance of a return to prison near 100%.

rodsmith, Kansas v. Hedrick is in my opinion the scariest Supreme Court decision out there - the dissent in Fouscha v. Louisiana is just as bad - but effectively you have 4 members of the Supreme Court saying that the government can lock up anyone they say is dangerous without providing treatment or even if treatment is not possible (they would not even require that person have a mental illness - just be declared "dangerous" by an psychologist). The implications there are frightening - especially given the fact that the decision on whether to lock someone up in a hospital is essentially a guess (and any reputable psychologist will tell you that predicting future danger is nothing but a guess). the guesses by the way are being made by people whose profession is treating sex offenders - so of course, they have a financial interest in finding as many people as possible as having sexual abnormalities and thus in need of treatment. They also have a financial incentive in claiming that there is possible treatment for sex offenders (there isn't) - sex offender treatment is therefore basically a scam. The Kansas Legislature by the way essentially admitted in passing their civil commitment law is a scam in that there is no treatment and the goal was simply to keep people from getting released. However, Justice Kennedy in his infinite wisdom said that "scam" treatment was fine with him and joined with the 4 justices who believe that no treatment at all is required if you are a dangerous sex offender (of course, a ponential homicidal maniac has to be an imninent danger to others before they can be civilly committed and released after treatment takes place to end the imnient danger).

Probably had something to do with Kansas getting to pick their initial target and picking someone who was truly scary - seriously, Leon Hedrick had a 30-40 year record of convictions of raping multiple children and had claimed to have raped hundreds of more children going back 40 years. Of course, the real question of Kansas v. Hedrick is why someone like that had a release date in the first place. i mean, he had been convicted multiple times of raping childrne and was only given a 10 year sentence after his most recent convictions for raping multiple children. That is outrageous - but not a sufficient excuse to shred Constiutional protections for people much less dangerous. Especially since Hedrick who admitted that if released he would rape more children might have met regular commitment standards as a danger to others.

Posted by: Erika | Jan 11, 2013 11:55:02 AM

I work as a reader writer for a local community college.

I agree with you on your points, rod. I never disputed you on your arguments.
When I said "decent" staff and guards, I meant those who do NOT follow illegal orders and who are prepared to blow the whistle on those who do. Case in point, two corrections officers over ten years put both their careers and lives on the line when they appeared on 60 MINUTES to expose forced gladiator fights at Cochran Prison in California. The prosecution ultimately blew their strong case against the prison system and the two guards became pariahs among their former former colleagues for having the courage and decency to step forward in protest against prison gladiator fights.

Posted by: william r. delzell | Jan 11, 2013 1:27:05 PM

nice erika! But your in a dream world with this one!

"william, almost without exception, civilly committed sex offenders are kept in seperate "treatment"/hospital facilities and not prisons. In those facilities people will have much more rights and less restrictive conditions of confinement than in prisons. Civil commitment also requires peridoic review - so detainees do have at least a slight chance at obtaining release. Many of the civl committees are still on probation or parole as well. A riot would lower the chances of release to zero and make the chance of a return to prison near 100%."

Sorry calling a prison a "treatment/hospital facility" does not make it one...it's still a PRISON. As for periodic review. I take it you missed the rescent case out of florida where one individual who they were requried by law to have a hearing within 6 months was still waiting 10 years later. But the courts decided that was OK with them!!

Sorry the entire system is an enterpise in illegal detention right up there with the nazi concentration camps and russian gulag's in siberia!

Or the curren politicans re-education camps red china is still using!

Posted by: rodsmith | Jan 12, 2013 2:24:17 AM

The problem william is they are still there and still supporting a sytem of illegal and criminal confinement!

Just how is someone trying to escape to know which guards are the good ones or the fucktards?

Posted by: rodsmith | Jan 12, 2013 2:25:42 AM

This child pornography is widespread worldwide. May governments take serious actions to eradicate this social dilemma.

Posted by: Procopio Brant | Mar 21, 2013 6:40:26 AM

Sex offender treatment is not pointless. I had a severe addiction to pornography which led me to seek illegal material. The process took most of my life. I am now 61. I had no interest in child porn until a few years ago when my addiction got worse and my anxiety and depression took over. Porn was an escape from reality and nothing more. I have no interest in pursuing any real time or real life offense against anyone and I realize now, after almost two years of treatment, how pornography led me to objectify women and children and to desensitize me to sexual violence. If I could have overcome my shame I would have sought therapy long before my problem became a legal issue of impossible magnitude. As it is I can say unequivocally, not just from my own experience, but from witnessing the process of recovery in others during group therapy, that those of you on this forum who are saying therapy is pointless have no clue about what you are talking about. Other countries have adopted a much saner attitude toward the problem of child pornography offenders than the US where the approach is basically punitive and draconian. Punishing someone for distorted thinking is WRONG. Punishing someone for what they might do is WRONG. Those who pursue contact offenses with children and those who refuse treatment and those who choose that life style and pattern of behavior should be removed from the community where they will continue to do harm. But those who accept treatment and decide to break their addiction and have no history of contact offenses or any other addiction should be given a chance. There needs to be a three strike law for illegal pornography offenders, particularly those who have no contact offenses. It is stupid, cruel, senseless and backward to send a first time offender to prison for 10 or 15 years when that person could be monitored and rehabilitated in a short period of time.

Posted by: fernando | Oct 26, 2013 9:56:06 AM

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