In recent years, possessors of child pornography have entered the federal criminal justice at an alarming rate. In 2006, child pornography cases accounted for sixty-nine percent of the child exploitation cases that were prosecuted federally. Average federal sentences for these offenses also rose sharply, by about 300 percent over the past fourteen years. The mean sentence imposed for child pornography offenses increased from thirty-six months in 1994 to 109 months by 2008. The severe sentences imposed on possessors of child pornography in federal courts have inspired an ongoing deb ate. Critics feel the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines are too harsh on first time offenders. In addition, calculation of an offender's Guidelines range can seem arbitrary, as his sentence is partially dependent on the number of depictions he possessed, and whether or not a computer was used. On the other hand, psychological studies suggest a strong correlation between those who seek out child pornography and those who would be diagnosed as pedophiles. Studies also suggest that most pedophiles are unable to control their strong sexual urges. They are likely to seek out sexual relationships with children if they are not incapacitated in some way. Yet, research has shown that incarceration and social shame are unlikely to rehabilitate sex offenders. Therefore, the lengthy prison terms imposed by the Sentencing Guidelines are only a temporary solution to the bigger problem that criminal pedophiles pose. Some studies have shown that medical treatment, such as castration, provides the only effective means of changing pedophilic behavior. Sentencing for possession of child pornography should involve a more comprehensive approach that incorporates treatment through medical and pharmacological means in addition to temporary incapacitation through prison sentences.
Strong Medicine: Toward Effective Sentencing Of Child Pornography Offenders,
Mich. L. Rev. First Impressions
Available at: http://repository.law.umich.edu/mlr_fi/vol109/iss1/4