Here are two stories you might find of interest. In the first, the AP gives us a very thoughtful and relevant piece about the hearings recently conducted by the U.S. Sentencing Commission on the subject of child pornography. Some fascinating facts and statistics emerged from the hearings:
- Sentences imposed for child porn related offenses were six months longer than those for actual sexual abuse against children. Possessing a picture of a criminal act is therefore worse than having committed the original crime. Unheard of anywhere else in common law.
- The average sentences for child porn possession were longer than for any crime except murder or kidnapping.
- Federal indictments for child porn offenses have increased dramatically, underlining the fact that no amount of law enforcement can stop a crime that can be committed with a cell phone, a child and an internet connection. We know the war on drugs is a total failure and that requires massive amounts of manpower, transportation and money. Not to mention vast distribution networks. Would anyone even bother to continue this drug war if you could get cocaine spitting out of your USB drive with a few clicks on your keyboard?
- To express their dismay at the guidelines, federal judges handed out sentences that were 45% below the guidelines - more than double the rate for all other crimes.
It never ceases to amaze me, however, the lengths to which the Justice Department will lie as it regards this issue. There is no credible study anywhere that suggests viewing child porn leads to actually, physically harming children. The only comprehensive studies on the matter, a Swedish & a Swiss study (see link below), confirms the opposite. And yet DOJ maintains there remains a strong link between viewing and acting.
The hearings also pointed out the ridiculous distinction in federal criminal law between receipt and possession of child porn. Receipt carries a mandatory minimum of five years. Possession carries no mandatory, although the guidelines recommendations are still harsh. New York State, as an example, has no crime for receipt as it is plainly a distinction without a difference. If you possess, clearly you received. If not, you produced which is obviously much worse.
The second SO story of the day, involves a highly successful Indiana program that facilitates inmates receiving college courses and granting time off for completing a degree. It is a widely hailed program that reduces recidivism dramatically and makes otherwise uneducated or undereducated future ex cons more employable, which is obviously a desirable thing if you believe in rehabilitation.
But of course, some so-called "sex offender" did what he was permitted to do and earned not one but two degrees and was comenserately awarded time off, just like anyone else. Naturally, some Indiana legislator got wind of this and is now changing the law to deny "sex offenders" time off for completing a degree.
From what I have been able to research, this time off would still apply to murderers, but not to anyone who possessed child porn or committed any type of hands-on sex crime. The best part of the story is that crazed State Senator Jim Merritt is blaming the inmate, Christopher Wheat for taking advantage of the program - the Offender College Degree program. Here is the stated purpose of the program:
Indiana Code allows inmates to have their sentences reduced for good behavior and attending classes while behind bars. Education credit is currently capped at four years of time earned or one third of a prison sentence. DOC officials use the earned credit time as an incentive program to help educate and rehabilitate offenders.
Wheat read the requirements, followed them and is now being accused by Sen. Merritt of "gaming the system" for having followed the rules. Sen. Merritt is now trying to get Oakland City University to withdraw the degree, which would prevent Wheat from receiving the time off credit thereby keeping him incarcerated. He also wants the rules changed to limit the types of degrees inmates can receive. He says they shouldn't receive degrees for professions in which they wouldn't likely be hired. Presumably only to those that teach burger flipping.
Then, paradoxically, he said, “We all believe education in prison should be for the rehabilitation of one’s character and preparing them for their life as an ex-offender.” It's a worthy program with proven results. If the program is giving too much time off, then reduce the awarded time. I don't have a problem with reviewing any program. As long as it's applied uniformly and fairly. But the Indiana hysteria isn't based on any logical or proven danger. In Wheat's case, he is being transferred to a halfway house, has to wear a GPS bracelet and will be a lifetime registered sex offender. You can't say that for any murderer or armed robber who will be released under the college program.
Here are the relevant links for these stories: