Sunday, March 30, 2014

casual cruelty to children

Children suffer when a parent goes to prison but who would expect that the suffering can be worse when that parent is released from prison? After the parent has been away from home for years, the anticipated reunion is often prohibited, even when the child was not a victim of the parent's crime.

A man who was convicted of possession of child pornography, released to a halfway house to serve out the remaining few months of his sentence, is not allowed to see his children. He is not allowed to talk to them on the phone or to write to them.

He must be dangerous to them, one might think.

If he were a danger to his own children, why was he allowed to live at home between entering his plea and his sentencing? Why were the kids allowed to visit him at prison?

His halfway house is 30 minutes from his home. The kids know he is out of prison and they know they are not allowed to see him. Their mother can spend time with him but he can be sent back to prison if he sees or talks to the kids.

How does this make sense? How can this cruelty be anything but evil? It protects no one and throws children into an emotional tailspin they most emphatically do not deserve.

Another family, another cruelty:

The dad is out of prison but not allowed to see his son. Before he can see his son, his probation officer and his therapist require him to disclose the details of his crime to the son. This was a hands-on crime, so the thirteen-year-old son will hear every detail of the crime. It gets worse. The disclosure will also include details about sex between the parents, whose sexual activities were not part of the crime in any way.

What middle-school child needs to hear details of any sexual encounters, let alone his dad's? Note, too, that the therapist requiring the disclosure is not the boy's therapist. If the boy is seeing a therapist, that therapist was not asked if this disclosure was wise. One wonders if the continual discussion of details of the sex crime is gratifying in some way to the probation officer or the therapist.

The casual disregard for the children of sex offenders is astounding. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

high shock value; low information value

Fourteen men arrested for exploiting children via the Internet. 
Twenty-seven thousand subscribers of the website operated by those arrested.
Two hundred fifty-one victims as young as 3 years old. 
Forty terabytes of pornographic images.

According to a Reuters article on, a Department of Homeland Security investigation uncovered a 27,000-member, subscriber-only website (or websites; it is not clear) that made child pornography available. 

According to a USA Today article,
Those members and users, according to documents, "coerced hundreds of minor boys to record themselves engaging in sexually explicit conduct.'' Unknown to the child victims, the videos were allegedly transmitted to Johnson's sites, allowing members to view and download the videos.
This sounds horrifying. Some of it may be but let's sort out the words calculated to shock and frighten us.

On the USA Today video, the ICE spokesman says the amount of storage needed for the porn on the web servers was 
...forty terabytes, five times the size of all the information stored by the Library of Congress.
That's an impressive number, to be sure. Not many of us have an external drive that holds even a single terabyte, so forty terabytes must be, like, VAST. On the same video, a line from a court document is highlighted:
...websites contained approximately 2000 sexually explicit videos of young boys...
It is safe to say that a boy masturbating in front of a webcam (with parents and/or siblings down the hall) is not likely to produce a full two-hour movie so those 2000 videos cannot account for all forty terabytes. The website must have offered images other than those of the boys, perhaps even--dare to imagine--legal pornography. 

In addition, the comparison to the size of the Library of Congress ignores the fact that no one knows how many terabytes (or petabytes) of storage the LOC would require if all its documents--and movies!--were digitized. The comparison was used for effect, not for accuracy.

The victims were all boys ages 13-15, with the exception of eight girls and two boys around three years old. Members and operators of the website enticed the boys to perform on camera and the images then ended up on the website. Sometimes the operators/members posed as young girls asking the boys to show or do something for the camera.

Hard to tell if the subscribers were all seeking child porn or how many of them were involved in soliciting the illegal images or how long any of them were subscribers. Was it a month-by-month subscription so that the same subscriber could be counted multiple times? (Rest assured that the feds have already collected as much data about the subscribers as possible from the website. I imagine they could answer my question if they were so inclined.)

Given the information we have, the victims were enticed, not forced, so we have teen-aged boys, foolishly performing before a webcam. The two little ones? Those images are not described, but if someone did something to or with those little guys, they should be held responsible. On the other hand, if the images are not described, perhaps the images don't have the shock value needed for the story.

If over 200 boys will perform for a webcam when a stranger entices them, how many boys are doing the same for their real-life friends? In this case, the boys are called victims and ICE can claim to have saved them from the bad guys. 

In other cases, teens who upload naughty videos are called child pornographers.

A careful reading of the story should raise questions as well as eyebrows. 

Saturday, March 1, 2014

you thought the registry was just for sex offenders?

The sex offender registry includes more than sex offenders. A Pennsylvania woman is surprised to find that she is required to register.
Four years ago, [she] was convicted of interference with custody of children. That crime falls under the newest version of Megan's Law, and [she] must register as a real sex offender.
The news site offers what little comfort it can.
Although [she] feels singled out, there are hundreds in our area who never committed a sex crime yet they, too, are now registered as sex offenders.
Ah, well then. Hundreds of others on the registry even though they didn't commit sex offenses.

Once there is a registry, legislators will be unable to resist enlarging its scope. Legislators make laws and it is much easier to pass a law that no one dares to argue against.

Abolish the registry.