March 2, 2012
On Wednesday, February 15 the U.S. Sentencing Commission held a public hearing on federal child pornography offenses. The Commission heard from more than 15 witnesses who provided a wide variety of perspectives and views on the issue. The list of witnesses included technology experts, law enforcement professionals and prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, victims’ advocates and treatment specialists.
Some witnesses emphasized the importance of reevaluating the current federal child pornography sentencing guidelines given the relatively large percentage sentences below the guidelines range (see, for example, testimony from Judge M. Casey Rodgers and Deirdre D. von Dornum.
Experts pointed to significant changes in technology, low rates of recidivism and high rates of successful treatment for child pornography offenders as reasons to revisit and reform the guidelines. Those who disagreed with any effort to change the guidelines in a way that would reduce sentences stressed the importance of considering the impact on victims when determining appropriate sentences (see testimony from Michelle Collins, Sharon Cooper and Susan Cowley.
FAMM believes that the guidelines for child pornography offenses frequently call for sentences that are too long. The Commission should review these guidelines recommend to Congress, at a minimum, revision of the mandatory minimums for the offense. See FAMM’s comment on the Commission’s proposed priorities here. This hearing was an important step in gathering the information necessary for the Commission to evaluate and reform the current federal child pornography sentences. The agenda with links to the written testimony submitted by the witnesses is available here. A transcript of the hearing is available here.