U.S. Sentencing Commission Weighs Proposed Changes In Child-Porn Cases

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Child-pornography offenders are the focus of an intense debate within the legal community as to whether the federal sentences they face have become too severe, the Associated Press reports. By year’s end, the U.S. Sentencing Commission plans to release a report that’s likely to propose changes on child-porn sentencing guidelines. The issue “is highly charged, both emotionally and politically,” said a commissioner, U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell.

Many federal judges and public defenders say repeated moves by Congress to toughen the penalties over 25 years have badly skewed the guidelines, to the point where offenders who possess and distribute child pornography can go to prison for longer than those who actually rape or sexually abuse a child. Some prosecutors and members of Congress, as well as advocates for sexual-abuse victims, oppose any push for leniency. At a public hearing in February, a victim lamented to the Sentencing Commission that child pornography offenders “are being entertained by my shame and pain.” The commission report will be submitted to Congress, which could shelve it or incorporate its recommendations into new legislation.

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