CRIMINAL JUSTICE OVERKILL IN CHILD PORN CASES

The insanity continues.                               

     In America, we have come to measure success of criminal justice by how many years we pile on to human beings for prison time, when they are not necessarily deserved. The more, the better. Little do we care about the ripple effect it has on society, taxpayers and families.

     I believe in tough punishment for criminal behavior. I was a thirty-year cop. I put plenty of people in prison. But sometimes it is carried was too far when we end up doing more harm than good for the sake of vengeance.

     We are appalled by those who use children as sex toys, me included. People who engage in exploiting kids and producing child pornography should be prosecuted and sent away for a long time. However, our justice system is designed to impose stiff punishments to consumers, i.e., viewers as though they are the best target for putting a dent into the problem. That will never happen. It hasn’t happened with drugs, it’s not happening with child porn. We’ve been arresting marijuana users for fifty years, and there’s more pot in the streets today than ever.

     It’s the consumers that are the easy targets, like picking the lowest fruit from the tree. By tracking computer downloads, police and prosecutors have found a plum for racking up arrest and prosecution statistics.

     Such was the case of Joe, a 48 year-old Florida man with a lifelong clean record, a contributor to society and an actor/photographer by trade. Federal authorities raided his residence with a lawful warrant because they had electronically traced a child pornography site having been downloaded to his computer.

     Joe ruefully admitted the downloading. In the raid, all of his belongings, including thousands of photographs, were impounded. As it turns out, Joe was not an active purveyor of porn. No sign of any porn or child abuse was found anywhere in his photo records. He had no predatory history of stalking kids and has a healthy relationship with a new wife.

     Joe was convinced by a Public Defender to plead guilty because, well, he was. If he fought the charges, he would face more time. The judge was bound by minimum mandatory sentencing rules.

     Though he was guilty of looking at dirty pictures in his house, he had no contact with kids and never in his life, hurt anyone.

     Joe is now serving six years of his life in a federal prison. That’s six years the taxpayer will take care of his room and board and whatever medical problems are incurred. That’s six years of turning a productive taxpayer into a tax burden. That’s six years of creating a drain on society instead of a contributor to society. That’s six years of cell space that could be reserved for a truly dangerous criminal that remains in the streets.

     He has no children of his own, but does have a wife who will punished as well, because she will not have his love and support for the next six years.

     The punishment doesn’t end there. When released, good jobs will be elusive. He will be marked an ex-con forever. That’s a “life” sentence in and out of prison. Though he had harmed no one, he will be required to register as a sex offender for life, available on public records for all future employers and neighbors to access. Any place he lives and works will be scrutinized with restrictions. People will shun him based on his label, “sex offender.”

     His sustenance will likely be relegated to welfare entitlements and further dependency on the taxpayer. All this, for never committing a sex crime against any human being other than looking at pictures.

     The justice system is mainly designed to accomplish three objectives.

1)      Provide safety to the citizens by isolating criminals. (jails)

2)      Punish criminals for behavior that injures other people

3)      Rehabilitate criminals who have problems assimilating in society.

     None of this was accomplished in the case of Joe. There was no evidence introduced that he was a danger to any part of society. He was not a criminal that injured anyone. And any deviant behavioral tendencies might easily have been treated with modern therapy methods, if deemed appropriate.

     As a first time offender, Joe could have been given a probationary sentence with counseling to accomplish the desired results, i.e., punishment, rehabilitation and prevention. He surely wouldn’t be doing it again knowing Big Brother is watching.

     Instead, the system has made a criminal out of a non-criminal. When apartment managers and prospective job bosses check out his resume’ and learn he is a registered sex offender, they won’t bother to ask for details. His future is doomed. Thousands of sex offenders have been relegated to living under bridges because their court orders impose numerous prohibitions from living and working near schools, libraries and other locales which may involve children.

     There are nearly 400,000 registered sex offenders in the United States. Many deserve to be there. But some do not. Maybe it’s time to stand up for those lives that are unduly being wrecked by overkill.

     I’ve often said no one cares about the criminal justice system unless it directly affects them. Otherwise, it’s out of sight, out of mind. Our hearts bleed for the poor, the disadvantaged and the disabled. But there are 2.3 million people in our prison system, and a good percentage of them don’t belong there.

     Do we care?