Thursday, September 10, 2009

Are Sentences for Possession of Child Porn Too High?

Yes, according to some district judges testifying before the Sentencing Commission. From the National Law Journal:

Judges testifying before the U.S. Sentencing Commission in Chicago told the panel that sentences for people convicted of possessing child pornography have become too severe. The commission suggested it will review the relevant guidelines.
Chief Judge James Carr of the Northern District of Ohio and Chief Judge Gerald Rosen of the Eastern District of Michigan told the panel on Wednesday that sentencing for possession of child pornography, as opposed to manufacture or commercial distribution, may need to be changed. Many people convicted on the offense are not threats to the community, but rather socially awkward first-time offenders, they said.
"This is an area that requires the commission's close consideration and possible corrective action," Rosen told the panel, adding, "I know it's an awkward area for all of us."
In response, Commissioner Beryl Howell said that the issue "is on our priority list for the coming year." The commission will study what kinds of refinements might be made after reviewing the departures from the sentencing guidelines that judges have made in these cases, she said. Howell also noted that Congress has weighed in heavily in this area over the years.

"I'm of the view that in many instances the sentences are simply too long," Carr said, referring specifically to the guidelines for child pornography possession, gun possession and drug possession.
Rosen emphasized that he doesn't condone possession of child pornography or understand it, but focused on the unfairness of treating one person sitting in his basement receiving videos over the Internet the same as a commercial purveyor of child pornography. In some cases, a person who has watched one video gets a maximum sentence that may be higher than someone sentenced for raping a child repeatedly over many years, he said. The average sentence for possession of child pornography in his district more than doubled, from about 50 months to 109 months, between 2002 and 2007, he said.

7th Circuit Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook, who testified with a separate group of appellate judges, agreed that the child pornography possession area might be ripe for review. He said it gives him pause when he sifts through a stack of sentences that includes a bank robber getting a 10-month sentence and a person convicted of downloading child pornography receiving a 480-month sentence.
"One wonders if we aren't facing some unreasonable and unjustifiable disparities," Easterbrook told the panel.

What do you all think?


Anonymous said...

Most child porn defendants in federal court are middle-classed, middle-aged white men. Most crack defendants in federal court are poor, young, black men. I wonder who will get any future reduction in federal sentences, or who will get the bigger reduction in federal sentences, assuming both will get reductions in the near future.

Anonymous said...

As uncomfortable as the subject of child pornography is, I agree with what the judges said.

Anonymous said...

Paul Korchin just wrote a great sentencing memorandum on this issue, and King sentenced his client to min mands, about 1/4 of the guidelines. Go Paul!

Anonymous said...

I completly agree. I live in florida and im about to be found guilty of this crime. my possible sentance for first time no previous record. Ive also been in Sex Offender counseling for a year and a half. Im looking at life in prison. Min could be 20 years. I really dont understand this sentance. I know wht i did was wrong and i have found help. Oh and crack addicts dont get life sentances. I would have been better off taking a life. I don't expect your sympathy but the others in my group are trying their hardest to make their lifes better.

Anonymous said...

My brother was recently convicted of one count of possession and received a four year sentence for this crime. He didn't even view the videos and immediately deleted them. The judge in court said over and over again how harsh and severe the punishment is for this kind of crime. It's my brothers first offense and he's 48 years old. For the person that posted "I would have been better off taking a life" is very sad but true. My oldest son was shot and killed and the person who committed this horrific crime is still walking the streets almost two years later. I just don't understand the judicial system.