Federal judges continue to revolt against ‘severe’ punishment for non-violent sex offenders – Reason.com

Two recent reports from the US Sentencing Commission (USSC) shed light on the legal treatment of sex offenders and further undermine the prevailing notion that all members of this broad category pose a similar threat to public safety. This notion, which implies both severe punishment and the need for arbitrary registration, is clearly wrong.

In fiscal year 2019, the average federal sentence for the crime of producing child pornography was about 23 years, according to a USSC report released this week, reflecting the seriousness of such crimes, which are directly linked to sexual abuse. In comparison, the USSC reported in June that the average sentence for the crime of unconventional child pornography that year, which involved capturing, taking or sharing pictures, was about eight and a half years.

It is true that penalties for production offenses are considered more severe, but this does not mean that sentences for non-production offenses were justified or justified. These crimes do not involve contact with children and may involve nothing more than viewing pictures, which in the context of online sharing treats both the adoption and possession of child pornography.

The USSC observed that the average punishment proposed by federal guidelines for non-manufacturing offenses increased from 98 months (approximately eight years) in FY 2005 to 136 months (over 11 years) in FY 2019. By judges “increased more slowly,” from 91 months (about seven and a half years) to 103 months (about eight and a half years). The difference between these two trends reflects how much the judges are ignoring the guidelines based on their conclusion that the proposed punishments are excessive.

In fiscal year 1 fiscal year, 59 percent of non-productive offenders were punished below the guideline, which was less than 1 percent in the fiscal year 2005.
The percentage of sentences imposed below the guidelines applicable to non-productive child pornography continued to rise, the “USSC Note” indicates.[s] That court increasingly believes that punishment plans for such offenders are extremely serious. “

The responsibility for planning this “extremely severe” punishment rests with Congress, which has always felt it is wrong to increase the punishment. In 2003, the USSC noted, “Congress amended direct guidelines for increasing new punishments and creating new statutory mandatory minimum punishments.” As a result, “the underlying behavior increasingly induces such improvements and penalties on more offenders.”

Judges have no choice but to impose the minimum sentence required in the constitution. But in the case of 2005 United States vs. Booker, The Supreme Court has ruled on the basis of the Sixth Amendment that the Federal Punishment Guidelines, previously considered mandatory, are merely advisory. This decision freed federal judges from imposing sentences below the guideline range when they thought justice was needed.

Since the judges disagreed on when it was appropriate, the sentence imposed on the similarly located defendants changed drastically. In fiscal year 2019, for example, “119 sentences are similarly located [child pornography] Up to 228 months from the probation of the occupying offenders, “though” these 119 occupying offenders had the same specific crime characteristics and the same guideline calculations applied through the Department of Criminal History. Involved in child pornography (months to months) and 1,190 similar cases (less than one month to 240 months).

The USSC has been critical of the current sentencing scheme for many years, and it repeats those points in its June report. It notes that the current guidelines, which are “limited by the statutory mandatory minimum fines, amended by Congress directives and direct directives by Congress,” include “a series of improvements that have not kept pace with technological advances.” These improvements are “behaviors that have become so ubiquitous that they are now applied in most cases.” In fiscal 2019, for example, “more than 95 percent of non-productive child pornography offenders have improved for computer use and the age of the victim.”

Thanks primarily to congressional intervention, anyone who views, captures, or shares child pornography can be sent to federal prison for up to two decades, while anyone else who does the same could be sentenced to one year or less. It’s hard to reconcile anyone’s idea of ​​judging that situation.

People who think the problem is that some offenders are leaving too lightly believe that anyone who sees child pornography is prone to child abuse, so it is best to lock them in as long as possible. But USSC’s recidivism data says that belief is wrong.

The commission traced 1,09 non-productive child pornography offenders released from prison in 2005. Three years later, 3.3 percent were arrested for “contactless sexual offenses” (including child pornography). But only 1.3 percent were arrested for “communication sex crimes.” Even allowing for crimes that have not been reported, these investigations suggest that this category of sex offenders is far less dangerous than commonly imagined.

Other studies have similarly indicated, contrary to popular knowledge, that recurrence after a predatory crime is not particularly common among sex offenders. A 2003 Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) study found 9,691 male sex offenders in 15 states who were released from prison in 1994, all of whom were convicted of rape or sexual harassment. It found that 5.3 percent had been arrested for new sexual offenses in three years.

1 Another, Ill1 Ill Illinois Another study published the same year based on a sample of sex offenders found similar results. Any of those arrested were forced to register as sex offenders, so their crimes were not necessarily related to contact with the victim. Overall, 8.8 percent have been arrested for a new sexual offense in three years. After five years, the rate rose to .5.5 percent. A 2013 study of New Jersey sex offenders found that less than 5.5% of new sex offenders were convicted during the follow-up period, averaging 6.5 years.

By comparison, a 2018 BJS study found that the recurrence rate for state detainees released in 2005 after spending time for a variety of crimes – i.e. the rate at which they were arrested for similar new crimes – was about 40 percent three years and five years later. 49 percent year after year. Among violent offenders, the rates were 24.5 percent and 34 percent, respectively. For property offenders, they were about 45 percent and 55 percent, respectively.

A 2004 analysis looked at 4,724 sex offenders in 10 previous studies, all of whom were raped or incestuous. The five-year recurrence rate was 14 percent, 20 percent after 10 years, and 24 percent after 15 years.

The longest follow-up time in the BJS study of state detainees was nine years, during which time 58% were arrested for similar new crimes. The nine-year rate was about one percent for violent offenders and one percent for property offenders.

The authors of the 200 expected Sex Offenders Study say “as expected,” those who remain crime-free in the community have a lower risk of subsequent sexual recurrence, with an average recurrence rate of 10% at 10 years after release, 10 years of recurrence after five years of crime. % And 9% after 10 years of guilt. “They also found that” offenders over the age of 50 are eligible for release refund[ed] Half of petty criminals “

The researchers noted that their findings “challenge the prevailing beliefs about sexual repetition and have the effect of policies designed to address the risks posed by convicted sex offenders.” Such results are clearly relevant, for example, to assess the eligibility of state law that requires sex offenders to register from 10 years to a lifetime.

The foundation of publicly accessible databases – which make it difficult to find housing and employment that invites instability, harassment and violence while harming rehabilitation – all these people pose a constant threat. Evidence shows that the assumptions are flawed even among those who are confined to limited criminal individuals. This is especially true of non-violent sex offenders.

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