"Anyone who harms a child for profit or pleasure, or who in any way participates in child pornography -- online or otherwise -- should be punished to the fullest extent of the law," the author said in a statement. "My comments made two days ago during an interview with the British newspaper The Telegraph were in no way intended to show sympathy for those convicted of sex crimes, especially the sexual molestation of children. I can think of nothing more despicable. I regret having made these comments, and apologize to all."Balko's defense of Grisham, which is a longer and much more thoughtful piece than my blog post:
Grisham certainly could have chosen his words better. But he isn’t wrong, and the invective he’s receiving right now is both misinformed and wildly over the top. There are Twitter users calling him a pervert, or for his hometo be raided by the FBI. It isn’t all that different than suggesting that people who criticize the drug laws must be doing or selling drugs. [My emphasis.]
Take this quote out of context, and one could make Grisham look like he thinks the biggest problem with the criminal justice system is that old white guys are getting locked up for looking at child porn. But context is important. Grisham has spent a great deal of time, money, and influence advocating for criminal justice reform. He helped found the Mississippi Innocence Project, and sits on the board of directors for the Innocence Project in New York. He wrote a nonfiction book about a wrongful conviction, and helped another get published. He testified before Congress about the need for reforming the forensics system, addressing the problems he’s seen firsthand in Mississippi.Balko's piece is heavy on the links because the information he presents about Grisham is important. Grisham has a history of being on the side of justice.
The reality is that John Grisham has done far, far more to actually address racial bias in the criminal justice system than the self-righteous pundits mocking him have done or will likely ever do. But because he had the temerity to stick up for a friend — and a middle-aged white male friend at that — the rush is on to disregard all of Grisham’s prior work, exaggerate the indignation, and reduce the man to a caricature....
This dressing down of Grisham by Jessica Goldstein at ThinkProgress pieceis pretty typical. There’s no mention of Grisham’s criminal justice activism. Just a lot of scolding, belittling, and berating. Worse, much of it is factually inaccurate.Balko goes on to point out several inaccuaracies and then takes issue with the usual arguments about child porn.
I don’t disagree that children depicted in child porn videos continue to experience harm as those videos are distributed. I’m also certain that viewing the ISIS beheadings causes trauma to the families of the victims. Yet I’m not ready to start putting people in prison who, for whatever reason, decided to watch those videos. I’m skeptical of the supply and demand argument, particularly when the suspect hasn’t bought or traded any porn. But even if it’s true that merely viewing child porn provides a market for more child porn, it’s also far from clear that harsh sentencing laws are the answer. We’ve been tossing people in prison for viewing child porn for decades now, yet both the United Nations and the Justice Department say that the online supply of child pornography is only growing. [My emphasis.]Read all of the Balko piece; I covered only part of it. It will be worth your time.
If only John Grisham had been better-prepared to argue what his good sense--and his sense of justice--knows to be true: Sentences for child porn offenses are too harsh.