Yes, it’s the move we’ve all been waiting for.   It’s become an American tradition: you gather with your friends for a barbecue and the conversation inevitably strays to the unfairness of the sentencing of those convicted of child porn.

“Those penalties for watching child porn are just too harsh!  Who’s with me? Pass the macaroni salad.”

It’s amazing, but true.  This is the opinion of the legal community at the moment.   They apparently believe that the problem with Congress is that they keep on increasing the penalty for being caught with child porn. How horrific.

…federal judges and public defenders say repeated moves by Congress to toughen the penalties over the past 25 years have badly skewed the guidelines, to the point where offenders who possess and distribute child pornography can go to prison for longer than those who actually rape or sexually abuse a child.

What is their argument?  It actually seems legitimate on the surface—people who get caught watching child porn are sometimes receiving sentences that are longer than those who are actually molesting children.  Obviously, both crimes are hideous—but I don’t know if there’s anyone out there who thinks people watching the child porn should be in jail longer than the people creating it.

the average sentence for a federal child pornography offense in 2010 was higher than all other offenses except murder and kidnapping. Indeed, the average was about six months higher than for sexual abuse offenders.

This, however, is where common sense leaves the conversation.  There are two ways to right this situation:

A)   Make the sentences of child molesters longer.

B)   Make the sentences of child pornography connoisseurs shorter.


Guess which one they want to do?  If you guessed B, then you know America!

In a 2010 survey of federal judges by the Sentencing Commission, about 70 percent said the proposed ranges of sentences for possession and receipt of child pornography were too high. Demonstrating their displeasure, federal judges issued child porn sentences below the guidelines 45 percent of the time in 2010, more than double the rate for all other crimes.

Troy Stabenow, an assistant federal public defender in Missouri, said the judges’ resistance to the sentencing guidelines was “pretty courageous,”

“They’re doing it knowing they’re likely be lambasted in the media,” he said. “They wouldn’t be doing it unless they really believe a lot of typical offenders they see are not the menace that people assume they are.”

Allow me to lambaste.  I agree, you should go to jail longer for sexually abusing a minor, than downloading a picture of it.  But, the issue here is not that child porn users are punished too harshly.  It’s that child molesters are punished far too leniently.  From An Inconvenient Book , page 181

“Three years, that’s how long the average convicted child molester spends in prison. They receive an average of a seven year sentence, but only three of those years are actually spent in jail.”

Three years?  Seriously?  Make that thirty years (or forever) instead, and magically those child porn sentences start looking a lot more reasonable.  Instead we’re looking to rebrand pedophiles as “minor-attracted” individuals ” and whining about the trials and tribulations of your neighborhood child porn viewer.

Congress sucks, utterly and completely.  But increasing the penalties on child molesters is not the area they deserve criticism in.