The federal judges know. They know that sentences for child pornorgraphy offenses are too often too severe.
In 2010, federal judges deviated below sentencing guidelines in child pornography cases 43 percent of the time, compared with 18 percent for all other crimes, according to data from the US Sentencing Commission, the agency that Congress established to set the guidelines.I have noticed myself that our local federal judges tend to issue sentences below what the sentencing guidelines would require, which is a hopeful sign that judges are sensible people.
That figure has been steadily increasing since the Supreme Court in 2005 and 2007 affirmed that judges have the right to depart from commission recommendations.
How did those tough sentencing guidelines come about?
Congress has been so aggressive in its efforts to toughen child pornography sentencing guidelines over the last decade that it overrode the Sentencing Commission’s edicts for the first time in its history, in 2003. The changes effectively doubled what the average sentence for possession of child pornography had been in the two previous years, according to a Sentence Commission study, from 28 to 54 months.Elected officials have a hard time arguing against any kind of get-tough-on-crime measures because of the danger that an opponent in an election campaign could use it against him or her.
The Department of Justice has also pointed to a study at a federal prison that found that found that 85 percent of inmates convicted of child pornography possession who took part in therapy sessions later admitted to having sexual contact with children. Before they were sentenced, 74 percent of the 155 men who took part in the study indicated they had no history of contact with children.
“I’m very cautious when I hear people use the term child pornography offender with this underlying assumption that they haven’t done anything else,’’ said Michael Bourke, a psychologist who conducted the study and published its findings in 2009.Let's think about this for a moment. They are arguing for longer sentences for child porn charges because the offenders may have molested a child. Please notice that the offender was not arrested for or charged with molestation, only suspected. The suspicion also falls on the entire category of offenders instead of looking at individual cases.