Currently, there’s an ongoing debate in legal circles about whether the federal sentences for convicted child pornographers are too severe. By the end of 2012, the U.S. Sentencing Commission is planning to release a report that will most likely propose changes to sentencing guidelines for child pornographers.
In the past few decades, Congress has repeatedly moved to toughen penalties for those involved with child pornography. However, in recent years sentences have become so severe that an individual found to possess and distribute child pornography in many cases will go to prison for longer than a person who rapes or molests a child. A recent survey of judges found that 70 percent of them thought the proposed sentence ranges for child pornography crimes were too high.
Many child pornography-related crimes carry a mandatory sentence of five years, and on top of that there are additional penalties, known as enhancements. Enhancements are based on many factors, including how old the children in the pornography are and whether a computer was used in the crime. The median sentence for child pornography is seven years.
However, members of Congress will most likely not wish to vote against more lenient penalties, for fear of being accused of protecting child pornographers. Experts say a better approach is to revise the sentencing guidelines with the aim of helping the courts do a better job of distinguishing among different types of offenders. All parties involved in the debate do agree on one thing – the penalties should be very severe for those who produce and promote child pornography, as opposed to those who receive and possess it.
Regardless of how the sentences for child pornographers are applied in future years, one thing is clear – no one wants to be convicted of child pornography-related crimes. Child pornography carries such an incredible stigma that a person’s life could be destroyed by one such charge.