Non-violent men are spending 5-20 years in federal prisons for a first time non-violent offense for possession of internet child pornography. Their names plastered on a registry for years, if not life. Some of these men are innocent and mistakenly have these images on their computers because of Limewire, a file sharing site on the internet.
What has our Justice System and the United States of America come to? We are hanging first time non-violent sex offenders out to dry.....putting them on display for the whole country to mock. Is this really the way to rehabilitate a citizen of our country? Do these individuals not have rights? These actions are those of times gone past, times of uncivilization. We are a much more intelligent country than to treat people with such disregard.
An individual sitting in their home viewing child pornography has not physically hurt or attempted to hurt a human being, nor do they show signs of violence. Due to the nature of the internet, it is simple to fall upon these images in today's society....without even looking too hard for them. I believe many of these individuals fall upon these images when searching for legal adult pornography. Many download images or videos that unknowingly contain child pornographic information..finding out only when it is too late and already on their computer.
We as a society need to get this stuff off of the internet. Federal and State authorities that know this stuff is out there are not moving to remove it from the internet. Creating and distributing child pornography should continue to be a serious felony crime and punishable by serving time in prison. To do this to a child is unspeakable.
The crime of possession of child pornography, viewing pictures on the internet, needs to seriously be re-evaluated. I believe a first time offense should be a misdemeanor, similar to that of possession of drugs or driving while intoxicated.
-- A drunk driver that makes a conscious decision to get behind the wheel of his car and drive, putting hundreds of lives in danger, is arrested on a misdemeanor charge for a first offense.
-- A person viewing images of child pornography on their computer in their basement is arrested on felony charges and cannot even get a fair trial as they are immediately shunned by society. Most are forced to plead guilty and are sentenced to years in federal prison.
-- Many of these sentences are longer than those of state sentences for violent crimes.
-- Additionally, when their federal prison sentence is over, they are forced to register on the sex offender registry for many years, if not for the rest of their life.
What is this life long sentence all about? Why are these offenders further stigmatized? Is there any other non-violent crime that receives a life long sentence other than possession of internet child pornography sex offenders? Do murderers have to register on a national registry? Do men that beat their spouses in domestic disputes have to register on a national registry? How about armed robbery and home invasion? I would think that these violent criminals are more apt to reoffend and more apt to hurt someone than the non-violent criminal that viewed child pornography on his home computer. I would be more interested in knowing if one of these violent criminals was living in my neighborhood, more so than if they were looking at child pornography on the internet.
The current federal laws do not differentiate between violent sexual offenders and non-violent sexual offenders. All sexual offenders are categorized as monsters, demons of society and considered to be child molesters. There is a huge disparity in the federal sentencing guidelines for simple possession of child pornography.
I have four (4) daughters of my own and certainly DO NOT condone child pornography or violence against children in any way shape or form. I am an educated member of society and hold a very well paying position in a privately held company.
I do however believe that everyone deserves a second chance, ESPECIALLY non-violent first time offenders that have made a mistake and are very UNLIKELY to reoffend.
-- Do we give them a second chance or do we further stigmatize them and banish them from society because they "might" reoffend?
-- Do we ground our child forever because they "might" do it again?
-- Do we never let a wife abuser have a wife again because he "might" reoffend?
-- Do we never let an armed robber enter a bank again because he "might" reoffend?
-- Do we take away the drivers license of a speeder because he "might" speed again?
With regards to offenders of possession of child pornography, the punishment does NOT fit the crime. If these men are NOT seeking out minors in chat rooms (or the like) or partaking in filming or making child pornography, I believe we are being too harsh on these first time offenders. Typically, they are upstanding members of our society that have never been in trouble with the law before. Charging these first time offenders with a felony and giving them a life long sentence is absurd. These offenders need psychological counseling, NOT prison. By sending these offenders to prison is only messing them up more and most come out with more issues than when they went in. They DO NOT belong locked up with violent criminals.
It is as plain as day that there is a deep disconnect here. A first time offender of possession of internet child pornography should not be charged as a felon. They should be ordered to complete a sex offender management class, psychological therapy and probation. These individuals should not be forced to register as sex offenders and be shunned by society for the rest of their lives. We should not be ruining their lives and making it impossible for them to live in the United States of America and obtain gainful employment. They are currently prohibited from living within a certain distance of a school, church, day-care....they cannot go to church...they cannot vote.. This is cruel, inhumane and unconstitutional treatment. They should no longer be categorized with violent sexual offenders.
The federal guidelines have changed many times over the past 15 years and this offense has increasingly seen harsher and harsher penalties. We must stop the madness and do what is right. We need to rehabilitate and stop ostracizing these people. Not all sexual offenders are predators and child molesterers.
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