Was Grisham right? Child porn laws and mass incarceration

By Andrew Extein . . . Popular author John Grisham made headlines this week for speaking out against harsh sentences for child pornography, citing the recent prosecution of a friend for downloading child porn. His friend was sentenced to three years in prison for downloading pornography that claimed to depict 16-year-old females.

Predictably there was an immediate backlash, with people accusing him of sympathizing with dangerous pedophiles and even going so far as to find his views an implicit admission of his own child porn fetish. Disappointingly, Grisham then backtracked within hours and entirely took back his statements. However, the extremely negative public reaction to his statements and the social pressure to conform to popular values only highlight the harsh reality of the deranged era of sex panic that fuels mass incarceration today.

In an interview with The Telegraph, Grisham made some reasonable points, despite some of his phrasing and tone. He pointed out that there are many men incarcerated for downloading child porn who would never abuse or have sexual contact with a child; substance use and compulsive pornography consumption can lead people down a path to downloading child porn when they otherwise might not, often entirely by accident; many people convicted of child porn are accused of downloading porn depicting or representing post-pubescent teenagers; sex offender registries are inflated one-size-fits-all solutions to complex and disparate offenses and issues; mass incarceration is a real problem in the US, with exponential rises in prison populations despite falls in violent crime. (visit the Center for Sexual Justice for full article)

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    • #11721 Reply
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      Phil

      I find it hilariously sickening that Mr Grisham received such a backlash of angry “fans” (and perhaps some who aren’t fans but know of his works) just because he said it shouldn’t be such a big deal when there have been much higher profile celebrities like Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford speaking in FAVOR of letting the past PHYSICAL RAPE of a 13-yr-old female by director Roman Polanski be put behind him and to “leave him alone” because it happened so long ago.

      It was not even one of those ‘consensual, yet illegal’ relations with an underage female. Mr Polanski DRUGGED and INTOXICATED her so that he could take sexual advantage of her. That’s RAPE. But let’s give Mr Polanski a break because of his great contributions to the film industry with his award winning movies and let’s all be against anyone else who committed a sex offense and lock their butts up whether it was a consensual act or not. Or simply the viewing of what turns out to be underage pornography.

      Does ANYONE else see a problem with these two very DIFFERENT reactions to someone’s illegal behavior??????

    • #11722 Reply
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      Teresa

      I think the registration and the convection of said “sex offenders” is a grey area of the current law. I know of a man who is incarcerated for downloading child porn; he did not distribute it, nor did he share it with anyone. He’s merely guilty of viewing it. Yes, he had CD’s in his position; yes, he viewed them. NO he did not share them. So, he is spending seven years in the federal pen and will never ever have any kind of normal life again. I find that this is cruel punishment, and he isn’t even out yet.

    • #11723 Reply
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      Cynthia

      He had no business downloading child porn. I’m an adult that views porn regularly and I’ve never downloaded any illegal porn. “Gulity of viewing it” then he is guilty!!!! Next you will probably say, “he was merely guilty of raping kids the kids wanted it” “he was merely guilty of raping and killing the child”

      I don’t get people who want to coddle criminal activity. He knows that CP is illegal, there is no reason to view it, none!!! He clearly has a interset in children being raped (do not give me that BS that kids “consented” they were raped and abused for the enjoyment of defective adult who are delusional thinking that children want to be raped). Downloading CP supports those delusions and the rape and abusive of children.

    • #11724 Reply
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      Robin
      Admin

      I don’t believe anyone is arguing that people should not be tried and convicted of CP crimes. I think that Grisham’s point was (and still is) that there is a disproportionate punishment of the offense. And proportionality in punishment, no matter the crime, is a fundamental principle of Western law.

      RSOL does not “coddle” criminal activity. Instead, RSOL advocates for just and equitable punishment, and is entirely opposed to punishment that extends well beyond a sentencing order (which is, in effect, what registration does).

    • #11725 Reply
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      James Townsend

      Look people there are good and bad in everything under the sun. Believe it or not we all have a carnal mind. Its called the nature of the beast. Yes I’m afraid we inherited it from Adam and Eve. With all that said sure we all do things of a sexual nature. Some of us control it or correct it, some of us make mistakes, and some of us, and some of us just don’t care. While I’m not for or against pornography as that is a person’s choice in life a am against child pornography if that can be actually proven that it was child pornography. Law’s today are totally off the wall. Law enforcement want to act like God fearing People. I would never want the behavior of man. The bible can tell you about man and what’s happening today.
      Yes, law enforcement will compound something. Even punching on these sites are probably set ups anyway.
      As far as Mr. Grishams’s article he makes a few good points and I’m for anyone that stands’ up for people caught up in these situations by all this… and sure I believe in Christian correction and not human correction.. prison is not the answer or is bondage.

    • #11726 Reply
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      selizabeth

      I love it when someone with anger issues tells someone else what they will “probably” say next. Your comments after that make no sense whatsoever, Cynthia. Honestly. And no matter how many exclamation points use use, they are still muddled and based on nothing. Nothing about this is “clear”; you have no way of knowing anything about the “interests” of this man or anyone else. Where, oh whereever, have you seen anyone claim that cp victims “enjoyed” or consented to being raped?!
      Children are abused because some people get off on abusing children. Sometimes those people like memorializing those acts. That’s bad. But no one has ever been able to prove (or even assert with any reasonable authority) that children are abused solely for the purpose of making cp. Bad as it is, the pornography isn’t the problem. The abuse of children is the problem.
      I’d also like to remind you, way up there on your moral high-horse, that the children here were 16. Not 4, or 5, or even 12. 16. Lots of perfectly normal (as opposed to “defective”) adults find 16-year-olds sexually attractive. For centuries it was the norm. It’s not legal in our society today (nor am I saying it should be), but it is hardly “defective” or “delusional”.

    • #11727 Reply
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      NoOne

      Let me quote VA Law:
      9.1-900. Purpose of the Sex Offender and Crimes Against Minors Registry.

      The purpose of the Sex Offender and Crimes Against Minors Registry (Registry) shall be to assist the efforts of law-enforcement agencies and others to protect their communities and families from repeat sex offenders and to protect children from becoming victims of criminal offenders by helping to prevent such individuals from being allowed to work directly with children.

      Note that the purpose of the registry, to protect against “repeat sex offenders”. Over 95% of offenders currently on the registry are not “repeat” sex offenders. Hence it is the law that is perverted and not necessarily those that are subject to it. A single offense does not a repeat offender make.

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