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The Sentencing Commission Reports on Federal Child Pornography Offenses

The United States Sentencing Commission has finally released its long-awaited report on child pornography.  At upwards of 400 pages full of facts, figures, charts, graphs and statistics, it is an overwhelming document that comprehensively surveys the issues that arise in child pornography cases.  It contains detailed recommendations relating to adjusting — not necessarily increasing or decreasing in all cases — the child pornography Sentencing Guidelines.  Here is a random sample of points made in the report, some surprising, some not so much:

  • About 2/3 of child pornography cases involve some sort of distribution, often through peer-to-peer file sharing.
  • The average Guideline sentence (for “non=production” offenses — i.e. possession and distribution) has increased from a minimum of about 50 months in 2004 to almost 118 month in 2010.
  • Sentencing enhancements — for sado-masochistic content or pre-pubescent content, use of a computer, and number of images — occur in almost every case even though they were “originally were intended to provide additional proportional punishment for aggravating conduct.”
  • More than half of all offenders receive sentences below the Guidelines.
  • Treatment under a “containment model” reduces recidivism.
  • 3.6% of child pornography offenders followed over a period of eight-and-a-half years went on to commit contact sex offense; 70% did not commit any new offense over that period.
  • Overall, recidivism rates for child pornography offenders are “comparable” to those for other federal offenders.

Sentencing Commission Report on Federal Child Pornography Offenses

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