Mandatory Sentencing Guidelines Have Nothing To Do With 'Justice'

from the throwing-people-away dept

One of the many problems with America's criminal justice system is the use of federally-mandated sentencing guidelines. These policies take a one-size-fits-all approach to sentencing, stripping away the chance of any leniency being applied by the presiding judge. The guidelines demand ridiculously lengthy prison terms for certain crimes -- the foremost being anything drug-related. Following close behind it are mandatory sentences for sexual offenses. What's meant to act as an effective deterrent has instead become an easy way to lock up people for far longer than their criminal activity would warrant.

One judge found out just how out of touch federal sentencing guidelines are when he did something out of the ordinary: he asked the jury's opinion. (via Simple Justice)

The crime was one of the most universally-loathed: the collection and distribution of child porn. And the perpetrator was completely unsympathetic.
When government agents used cutting-edge software to hack into the hard drive of Ryan Collins’s computer, they found more than 1,500 sexually-explicit images of children, some of whom were younger than twelve. The agents also discovered file-sharing programs, indicating that Collins may have been distributing the pornography online.

Collins was unrepentant, even after a jury in Cleveland, Ohio convicted him of possessing, receiving, and distributing child pornography. The prosecutors sought the statutory maximum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment, and the federal sentencing guidelines would have allowed a term of as long as 27 years.
Even when faced with someone as apparently damnable as Ryan Collins, the jury's suggested sentence was lower than the sentencing guidelines called for. Far lower.
Before dismissing the jury, [Judge Gwin] asked each member what they thought would be an appropriate sentence for someone who had downloaded child pornography. According to Gwin, the average of the sentences they recommended was only 14 months.
This admittedly-small sampling shows that mandatory sentencing guidelines do not match up -- at all -- with what the public believes to be fair and just. These guidelines are supposedly written on behalf of the general public, with Congress and other government bodies acting to "protect" us from drug dealers, sex offenders, hackers, etc. by locking them away for extended periods of time. But it appears the public may still feel "protected" without putting child porn enthusiasts behind bars for a quarter of a century.

And it's not just Judge Gwin's peculiar query -- although he appears to be the first to make this line of questioning public. Other judges have heard similar answers from jury members, behind the scenes.

Iowa district court judge Mark W. Bennett:
"Every time I ever went back in the jury room and asked the jurors to write down what they thought would be an appropriate sentence -- every time – even here, in one of the most conservative parts of Iowa, where we haven't had a 'not guilty' verdict in seven or eight years – they would recommend a sentence way below the guidelines sentence."
Why wouldn't judges ask the jury's opinion on sentencing? After all, it's supposedly composed of the accused's "peers." They're entrusted with determining guilt or innocence, but somehow can't be trusted to offer up a worthwhile opinion as to the "reasonableness" of the sentence recommended by Congress? Those intimately familiar with the details of the case should at least be trusted to give their view on the ensuing sentence. Their view is no less informed than that of their representatives, who mostly deal with criminals and the criminal justice system in the abstract -- and are often far more inclined to appease the prosecutorial half of the equation than appear to be "soft on crime."

Judge Gwin's informal jury straw poll shows that the word "justice" -- in the context of mandatory sentencing guidelines -- is nothing more than a prosecutorial term of art, completely removed from the actual definition of the word.
All those people being sentenced to decades in prison under the pretense that it’s what society wants and needs is revealed, as Judge Bennett says, as baloney. While the Sentencing Commission won’t heed the defense lawyer perspective, perhaps a few federal judges making this point clear might carry sufficient weight to end the needless destruction of a life or two under the draconian guidelines. For the rest, maybe they will start taking the admonition of § 3553(a), “sufficient, but not greater than necessary.” seriously.
As for Judge Gwin, he did what he could in response to this gaping disparity by sentencing Collins to the minimum allowed under the guidelines -- five years, or roughly four years longer than the jury felt was reasonable or just. The prosecution had recommended the maximum -- 27 years -- a number so far removed from the public's sense of justice it may as well have been a number pulled out of thin air by a government lawyer who had stumbled into the wrong courtroom.

We're imprisoning people at an alarming rate in this country, and the nation's unofficial hobby shows no sign of slowing. And we're doing it for far longer than the public itself feels is necessary. We're destroying lives by taking criminals out of circulation for decades at a time, based on little more than Congressional appeasement of professional moral panickers and the law enforcement officials who love them. The fact that so many of our prisons are now run by private corporations makes the situation worse, because nothing pays better -- or more consistently -- than cell after cell of long-term "tenants."

Filed Under: criminal justice, justice, mandatory sentencing, sentencing, sentencing guidelines


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Feb 2015 @ 1:12am

    Meanwhile, famous people who have been doing much "diverse" things involving kids are free.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Feb 2015 @ 1:27am

    Ah, with privately owned Prisons, You get one free advice:
    What could possibly go wrong...

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Feb 2015 @ 1:31am

    usual story. everything is greater in the USA! or so they say!

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  • identicon
    Gordon, 26 Feb 2015 @ 1:51am

    Only 14 months?

    Personally, I don't think that's long enough.

    I absolutely agree that these sentencing 'guidelines' exist to protect the profit margins of privately-run prisons rather than to protect the public, but in my humble opinion 14 months would be far too lenient for a large-scale downloader and redistributor who has shown no remorse.

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    • identicon
      spodula, 26 Feb 2015 @ 2:07am

      Re: Only 14 months?

      I would add a caveat to that.

      Although i do think 5 years is probably closer, although i would expect part of that would include mandatory treatment and monitoring.

      Although of course that wouldn't happen, because it costs money, and US prisons seem to be all about that....

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      • icon
        ahow628 (profile), 26 Feb 2015 @ 9:44am

        Re: Re: Only 14 months?

        But it will cost $X per year for 20 years without monitoring and treatment. Do you think that monitoring and treatment will cost $4X per year?

        In 2010, the average was right around $30k for a high security inmate. So if we spent up to $120k per year for 5 years, we'd be better off. That is basically giving that guy his own psychologist for 5 years. You have to imagine we could have one psychologist treat at least a half dozen of these dudes per year.

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        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 26 Feb 2015 @ 10:20am

          Re: Re: Re: Only 14 months?

          The problem is that the judge talked to 12 jurors who had sat through an entire case. Now, compare that to running a campaign with an audience consisting of tens of thousands of voters.

          Who's gonna win? A guy whose platform is "I'm fiscally responsible in my application of mental health care for prisoners as related to overall societal benefit"? Or a guy that screams "I get pedos off the street! Think of the children!"?

          I think it'd be the screaming guy.

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    • identicon
      David, 26 Feb 2015 @ 2:22am

      Re: Only 14 months?

      Well, I think it makes sense distinguishing between consumers and producers of child pornography. Copying files is spreading the abuse thinner.

      You don't see people serving prison terms for animal cruelty because of buying meat at prices that do not facilitate ethical or even legal production. And meat is not something you can copy once it has been produced.

      If you take a look at the ethics of weapon production and sales, for example exporting "crowd control" tanks to Saudi Arabia (where homosexuality carries the death penalty, women may not move in public without their male guardian, and men dancing with shirt off in the street get prison sentences of decades), there generally is the stance "every crime against humanity we facilitate is fine as long as it pays well".

      And the people who facilitate mass murder and suppression and profit from it are very respectable and, for example, belong to the advisors of the president.

      If I see then the Department of Justice demanding decades of prison sentence for somebody who collects Japanese Hentai Comic Strips (where the origin does not even involve child abuse), there is a disconnection of "crime" and penalty that is actually more offensive and defying morality than what it purports to fight.

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    • icon
      Richard (profile), 26 Feb 2015 @ 2:38am

      Re: Only 14 months?

      but in my humble opinion 14 months would be far too lenient for a large-scale downloader and redistributor who has shown no remorse.

      In your humble opinion - which is less informed about the details of this case than the jury - from which the 14 months recommendation came...

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      • identicon
        Gordon, 26 Feb 2015 @ 2:51am

        Re: Only 14 months?

        Would you think 14 months enough if your kids were in the photos?

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        • icon
          That One Guy (profile), 26 Feb 2015 @ 3:27am

          Re: Re: Only 14 months?

          Sentencing should never, ever be based upon emotional arguments. If it was, then life sentences would be handed out like party favors, and multi-decade long sentences would be the norm for even minor crimes.

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          • identicon
            David, 26 Feb 2015 @ 5:01am

            Re: Re: Re: Only 14 months?

            Remind me: how many decades was Aaron Swartz charged with for making publicly available research articles publicly available? About four times the penalty for rape?

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        • identicon
          David, 26 Feb 2015 @ 3:33am

          Re: Re: Only 14 months?

          How did they get there in the first place?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 26 Feb 2015 @ 5:15am

          Re: Re: Only 14 months?

          No, but then I don't think long-term incarceration is a solkution to the problem, either.

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        • icon
          Richard (profile), 26 Feb 2015 @ 5:33am

          Re: Re: Only 14 months?

          Would you think 14 months enough if your kids were in the photos?

          The whole point of having a justice system in the first place is to avoid that kind of emotional connection.

          Also, statistically, if my kids were in the photos that would make me the most likely suspect for having taken them in the first place!

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        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 26 Feb 2015 @ 6:58am

          Re: Re: Only 14 months?

          And how did my kids get into the photo?

          The guy downloaded something off the internet - it's not like he ran around with cameras and candy encouraging my kids to get into his van and take pictures of them performing sex acts, etc.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 Feb 2015 @ 5:37am

      Re: Only 14 months?

      Personally, I don't think zero days is long enough for the banksters who crashed the world economy. They were not even investigated, 'cause it would adversely affect the markets ya-no.

      It's nice that your panties get in a twist about things that matter to you, but mandatory minimums are the answer (obviously).

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 26 Feb 2015 @ 5:38am

        Re: Re: Only 14 months?

        - not -

        they are not the answer.

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      • icon
        nasch (profile), 26 Feb 2015 @ 7:55am

        Re: Re: Only 14 months?

        Personally, I don't think zero days is long enough for the banksters who crashed the world economy. They were not even investigated, 'cause it would adversely affect the markets ya-no.

        I'm having a hard time seeing what that has to do with a child porn case. Bankers haven't been charged with crimes, therefore go easy on possession of child porn? Does not compute.

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        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 26 Feb 2015 @ 10:57am

          Re: Re: Re: Only 14 months?

          "I'm having a hard time seeing what that has to do with a child porn case. Bankers haven't been charged with crimes, therefore go easy on possession of child porn? Does not compute."

          OK, I'll throw my hat in the ring and try to explain my view on this. ...

          The penalties for crimes logically should be proportional to the harm those crimes do to society. But in reality, there is little to no correlation. Many victimless crimes, from downloading child-porn to smoking dope, have severe criminal penalties. But for many worse crimes (especially white-collar crimes) that destroy the lives of scores of victims, although logic would dictate that penalties would be severe, the complete opposite tends to be the rule.

          There was evidence of widespread fraud on a massive scale in the 2008 investment banking scandal, a crime so huge that it plunged the entire world into a recession, so the Wall St. bankers who were 'cooking the books' (or conveniently looking the other way) in order to reap huge bonuses, should have paid dearly.

          But the perpetrators of this mega-crime were never even charged -- because, as we learned later, the prosecutors in the DOJ were literally in bed with them.

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          • icon
            nasch (profile), 26 Feb 2015 @ 5:40pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Only 14 months?

            I don't disagree with any of that. But the fact that hardly anybody was prosecuted for the financial crisis has no bearing on what sentence someone should get for possession of child porn. If it's just meant as an ironic juxtaposition fine, but it isn't relevant.

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            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 26 Feb 2015 @ 5:57pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Only 14 months?

              It is relevant because minimum sentences are meaningless when the prosecutors office declines to do their job.

              Certainly there are minimum sentences for fraud, insider trading, laundering drug money, supporting terrorism ...

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    • icon
      Bamboo Harvester (profile), 26 Feb 2015 @ 6:52am

      Re: Only 14 months?

      "Personally, I don't think that's long enough."

      You didn't hear the actual case, just what the media reported on it.

      FWIW, I read it as he had pictures. And they found file sharing software on his computer (find me a computer in this day and age that does NOT have sharing software on it within an hour of being set up.

      This guy did NOT do anything that actually involved kids, he's not a child molester, he got caught with a bunch of pictures.

      Even a year for "possession" seems a bit harsh to me.

      All that said, the guy probably WILL assault a kid sometime in the future. But we don't try people for future crimes.

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    • icon
      Seegras (profile), 2 Mar 2015 @ 6:37am

      Re: Only 14 months?

      a large-scale downloader and redistributor
      Of pictures.

      What exactly is the crime? Is this about copyright? or privacy violations?

      I refuse to adhere to the position that "possession" of anything should be a crime (however, it can of course be evidence; you don't want to "possess" a stolen painting...).

      Actually, I think it would very much make sense to NOT criminalize the possession of child pornography because then ordinary people wouldn't just "say nothing" because they're afraid they could be persecuted. Instead, they would inform the police, and the chances of finding real criminals, the child molesters, would go up..

      Besides, right now there are people convicted of possession of child pornography for possession of comics, drawings and pictures of themselves, which is frankly absurd.

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  • icon
    Richard (profile), 26 Feb 2015 @ 2:11am

    Private Prison Contracts

    The best solution would be to change the terms of the contract.

    Instead of a sentence for each offender give a budget. The private prison would then be under no constraint to keep the offender in prison for any fixed length of time - but would simply be penalised if the prisoner re-offended after release.

    This would save a lot of money, reduce the prison population and reduce crime - which is why it won't be tried!

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    • icon
      cypherspace (profile), 26 Feb 2015 @ 4:23am

      Re: Private Prison Contracts

      Better solution: let's do away with private prisons completely. No matter which way you slice it, making imprisonment a profitable enterprise means that said companies will lobby congress for harsher sentencing criminalization of acts that should otherwise not be criminal. A typical private prison has a contract with the state where they need to keep a minimum headcount, and if the state falls short of supplying them w/prisoners the state has to pay them a HUGE sum of money.
      The private prison would then be under no constraint to keep the offender in prison for any fixed length of time
      Major problem here - what happens if they start blackmailing people over the fact they are going to release "violent" criminals - and the only remedy is to pay them off? Or decide they will simply imprison the prisoner for life, budget be damned?

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      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 26 Feb 2015 @ 4:54am

        Re: Re: Private Prison Contracts

        Yeah, there are some things that should never be for-profit, and prisons are right up there near the top, along with law enforcement and healthcare.

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        • icon
          Richard (profile), 26 Feb 2015 @ 5:45am

          Re: Re: Re: Private Prison Contracts

          Yeah, there are some things that should never be for-profit, and prisons are right up there near the top, along with law enforcement and healthcare.

          Generally I incline to agree with you, however...

          The critical issue here is whether the contract we write can be engineered to produce the outcomes we want. One of the problems with "corrections" is that it is easily influenced by political grandstanding. It is exactly this type of grandstanding that has produced the problem described in the article.

          If we could engineer the private contract to favour the outcome we really want - which is minimum re-offending with minimum expenditure whilst avoiding physical punishment - then the laws of economics could drive the private companies towards innovative solutions that might improve things for everyone. The problem is that in general private prisons have been viewed simply as low cost providers of capacity.

          Having said that I do believe that there is a small scale experiment along the lines that I described in the UK now.

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          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 26 Feb 2015 @ 12:37pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Private Prison Contracts

            Wrong, the contract will NEVER be engineered to make sense when you are dealing with private entities.

            The public must remain responsible for the charges. We deserve to fall as a society if we fail to get this sort of thing right.

            Society rightly should be held responsible for these things, and never be left free of it.

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          • icon
            John Fenderson (profile), 27 Feb 2015 @ 8:11am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Private Prison Contracts

            "The critical issue here is whether the contract we write can be engineered to produce the outcomes we want."

            We cannot, since that's an impossibility. No contract was ever written that can guarantee anything aside from the ability to sue for breach of contract.

            I've had a LOT of experience with business contracts, and I've learned a few things.

            A contract only gives you the legal right to fight if the contract is broken. If you don't have the time, will, money, or will to fight, then the contract provides no "protection" at all.

            The main value of a contract isn't to provide legal protection, it's to provide clarity. When two people of good will make a deal, it's common for each person to have a different idea of what the deal actually is. The process of negotiating a contract is really a process of clarification to ensure that all parties are speaking the same language, and that the details (where the devil is) are laid out in black and white.

            As a rule of thumb, you can gauge the value of the contract by how thick it is. The less two parties trust or understand each other, the thicker the contract will be. Also, the thicker a contract is, the less likely it is that it will be effective.

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      • icon
        Richard (profile), 26 Feb 2015 @ 5:48am

        Re: Re: Private Prison Contracts

        Major problem here - what happens if they start blackmailing people over the fact they are going to release "violent" criminals - and the only remedy is to pay them off? Or decide they will simply imprison the prisoner for life, budget be damned?

        Case 1 they pay a big penalty under the contract and lose money.

        Case 2 they exceed the budget and have to pay out of their own pockets and lose money.

        Provided the contract is well written we all win. However I suggest that this scheme could start with low risk, non violent offenders at first and progress to the others one the companies build up the relevant experience.

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    • icon
      sorrykb (profile), 26 Feb 2015 @ 9:25am

      Re: Private Prison Contracts

      I'm thinking the response of the private prison industry to a reduced per-prisoner budget would be simply to make prison conditions even more deplorable.

      A private prison industry should not exist. Period.

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      • icon
        Richard (profile), 26 Feb 2015 @ 12:37pm

        Re: Re: Private Prison Contracts

        response of the private prison industry to a reduced per-prisoner budget would be simply to make prison conditions even more deplorable.

        Pushing up re-offending rates - so again they lose money.

        If the contract can be set up right it can work.

        In education we call it "constructive alignment". It's hard to set up correctly but it can be done.

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  • identicon
    Lurker Keith, 26 Feb 2015 @ 2:32am

    The Bill of Rights should cover this

    Shouldn't the 8th Amendment be able to override the Federal Guidelines when they don't match up w/ what the Jury suggests? It covers Cruel and Unusual Punishments, which has been interpreted to include that the punishment should fit the crime & shouldn't be arbitrary.

    It would seem the Federal Guidelines often both don't fit the crime & are indeed arbitrary, & hence are Unconstitutional, at least in some circumstances.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Feb 2015 @ 4:10am

    Child porn, and they only want too give the guy 14 months? I don't care how you slice it or how you argue it, child porn is child porn.

    This is one of the few times that think of the children actually applies.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 Feb 2015 @ 7:14am

      Re:

      The proliferation of cellphone cameras has enabled sexually active teenagers under the age of adulthood to take explicit pictures of themselves, or request/allow their partners to take explicit pictures of them. Stupid kids being stupid kids, not all of these photos remain private, some end up in wider circulation.

      In short, advances in technology have enabled the creation of a subset of child pornography that is entirely consensually "produced". While incredibly stupid on the part of the kids involved, it's extremely difficult to say that the normal harm involved in the production of child porn applies.

      I'm not saying any of this applies in this particular case. The point is that "child porn is child porn" is a dangerous over simplification. And that mandatory minimum sentences allow no flexibility for dealing with the complexity of reality.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 26 Feb 2015 @ 11:09am

        Re: Re:

        For this entire topic I would also like to be an AC.

        I agree entirely with your point and will even raise specific context.

        The major crime, as I see it, is the violation of trust in adults and some form of rape. (I'm less keen on statutory definitions of such, truly informed consent is such, but the inception of such laws is in the difficulty of proving/disproving such.)

        Merely having some data, but otherwise not acting directly on those around you, is effectively a thought crime. I suspect this is why the jury gave such a low number; they were disturbed by the thoughts (and content) the individual had, but were aware of how far removed from /actual harm/ to children the defendant presented in their view.

        I would also like to theorize that the major harm to a victim (for any form of rape) is more applied by society's reaction to the act; that is by treating them differently, of reminding them and not allowing them to move on, it becomes an even greater and ongoing harm.

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        • icon
          sorrykb (profile), 26 Feb 2015 @ 12:36pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Anonymous Coward wrote:
          I would also like to theorize that the major harm to a victim (for any form of rape) is more applied by society's reaction to the act;

          No.

          Society's reaction (or the reaction of some portion of society) may compound the harm, but...

          No.

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        • icon
          sorrykb (profile), 26 Feb 2015 @ 12:47pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Also...
          by treating them differently, of reminding them and not allowing them to move on, it becomes an even greater and ongoing harm.

          "You'd just be better off if you didn't talk about it. No need to report it to anyone, just bury it all so you don't have to think about it and everyone can just move on and get over it."

          You know what? That doesn't fucking work.

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          • icon
            John Fenderson (profile), 27 Feb 2015 @ 8:20am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Very close friends of mine had someone break into their house while they slept and abduct their 3 year old child. They discovered the abduction an hour or so after it happened, and the guy was caught and their child was returned.

            However, before that happened, a "rape kit" was performed on the child. Both of the parents were present for this and characterized it in exactly the same way: what the medical staff did to their child was not so different than a rape in and of itself.

            The lesson they learned? Don't report sexual assault to the police (at least, if it involves a child) because the child will be assaulted again. Instead, the father told me "if this ever happens to one of my children again, I'll just find the bastard and kill him instead of calling the cops."

            Failure to report may not "work", but at least in some cases, neither does reporting if the goal is to help the child heal.

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            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 27 Feb 2015 @ 4:50pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Considering that (it's believed) only a very small percentage of the adult population would have any sexual interest in a 3-year-old child, automatically putting all children through a "rape check" seems like extreme overkill.

              That's about as bad as being a suspected 'rape' victim in prison -- even if the first act of penetration was consensual, the 2nd one will not be.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 Feb 2015 @ 9:08am

      Re:

      Child porn, and they only want too give the guy 14 months? I don't care how you slice it or how you argue it, child porn is child porn.
      Before tossing out such a simplistic argument, how about you enumerate for us the types of things you would consider to be "child pornography." Then go enumerate all the things that the law, both statutory and case, considers to be child pornography. A sibling poster pointed out that minor teens who take naked selfies are technically producing child pornography, and anyone who possesses the picture is guilty of possession of child pornography, without regard to what the subject in the picture thinks of the situation.

      Case law makes it even worse than that. Go draw a non-erotic picture of an obviously fictitious minor. Give him/her an extra arm, or some cyborg properties just to make it really absurd. Congratulations, you have just produced child pornography and are now in possession of same.

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    • identicon
      Susan, 15 Mar 2015 @ 10:41am

      Re:

      90% of child porn comes from the family or a person close to the family circle. Educated yourself before you make comments about protecting the children. There has not been one sex offence law that has protected a child. When the govt puts a 4 year olds on the registry and arrest a mother because her 3 year old pee'd outside and a neighbor phone the police or 3 six year old boys were arrested for playing tag on the playground and tagging each other on behind, a teacher phoned the police, not the parents until the police cuffed them and took them away. It took the parents 3 days to get them out of jail where these boys were stiped search every time the parents and their attys went to check on them. Now tell me who is protecting the children!

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  • identicon
    Furkan Tur, 26 Feb 2015 @ 4:52am

    justice

    You don't see people serving prison terms for animal cruelty because of buying meat at prices that do not facilitate ethical or even legal production. And meat is not something you can copy once it has been produced.

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  • identicon
    David, 26 Feb 2015 @ 5:26am

    This is interesting

    A Judge actively soliciting a form of Jury Nullification. Not so far as to not convict, but at least in the duration of punishment. I think this is a good thing.

    While I think that mandatory sentencing guidelines have been a path to hell paved with good intentions (don't want murder in one place be worth 1 year, and 20 years in another), it has been turned upside down.

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  • icon
    sorrykb (profile), 26 Feb 2015 @ 9:28am

    "Every time I ever went back in the jury room and asked the jurors to write down what they thought would be an appropriate sentence -- every time – even here, in one of the most conservative parts of Iowa, where we haven't had a 'not guilty' verdict in seven or eight years..."

    Am I the only person who finds that last part a little disconcerting?

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    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 26 Feb 2015 @ 9:53am

      Re:

      More than just 'a little', the odds of not one innocent person being tried in that area in that time-frame is all but non-existent, which means that more than a few innocent people have been screwed over by the court system in that area.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 26 Feb 2015 @ 10:25am

        Re: Re:

        There are many people who believe that a trial is really just a formality; they trust the government authorities, and go in believing that if the government believes a person is guilty, he almost certainly is. Many of the flag-waving "Born Again Christian" types seem to fit this mold. Since most trials boil down to "which side do you think is more credible?" question, it's no surprise that in many conservative, pro-establishment places (where being an elected official is a lifetime job) juries tend to side with the prosecution, often strongly so.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          That One Guy (profile), 26 Feb 2015 @ 12:03pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Since most trials boil down to "which side do you think is more credible?" question, it's no surprise that in many conservative, pro-establishment places (where being an elected official is a lifetime job) juries tend to side with the prosecution, often strongly so.

          Now what does that remind me of, I could have sworn I've seen people compare the US 'justice' system with another at times. Ah yes...

          'A typical example of the Cardassian approach to life was found in their jurisprudence and criminal trials, in which the verdict was always determined beforehand - guilty - and the purpose of the proceedings was not justice in the Human sense but bringing the offender to recognize the power and benevolence of the State. A trial, therefore, was an opportunity for the State to reveal how someone's guilt was proven by what they considered "the most efficient criminal investigation system in the quadrant". Consequently, charges against the accused were announced at the commencement of the trial itself, the execution date was set in advance and only the offender's spouse as well as the court-assigned nestor and counsel could attend the trial. When Benjamin Sisko once asked Gul Dukat why bother with a trial at all, Dukat responded that the people demanded it as they enjoyed watching "justice triumph over evil". The notion that they might try an innocent man by mistake was foreign to them as they believed in and always operated under the assumption that "Cardassians don't make mistakes". The typical Cardassian approach, therefore, was direct, simple, and ruthless, uncaring about how many aliens – or Cardassians – were trampled in the interests of the state.'

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Feb 2015 @ 9:37am

    Sarah Bain, jury forewoman turned activist

    Because juries are generally kept in the dark about sentencing and completely uninvolved except in death penalty cases, they are often so shocked upon learning the sentence handed down by the judge that they wish they could take back their guilty verdict. But of course, they can't, no matter how badly they feel they were tricked by assuming that their guilty verdict would warrant a slap on the wrist.

    The jury forewoman on the Branch Davidian trial, Sarah Bain, was so outraged by the judge doling out long sentences for the 'crime' of borderline contraband possession, as well as other abuses by the government's prosecution, that she became somewhat of a political activist for what she saw as gross injustice in the "justice" system.

    http://www.constitution.org/waco/waco_juror_bain.htm

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Padpaw (profile), 26 Feb 2015 @ 1:00pm

    where else do you expect the state to get slaves to work for free in their for profit prisons.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Feb 2015 @ 1:18pm

    but in my humble opinion 14 months would be far too lenient for a large-scale downloader and redistributor who has shown no remorse

    1500 images is large-scale? Really? I could get 1500 images (of general porn) in a single afternoon of newsgroup postings. I could hardly imagine considering anything 'large-scale' until you go over at least 100,000 images.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Lance Mitaro, 26 Feb 2015 @ 1:31pm

    Don't matter what the actual sentence is in years. The REAL prison sentence starts once these poor saps are released.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Just Another Anonymous Troll, 27 Feb 2015 @ 6:12am

      Re:

      If you're a convicted felon and sex offender, there go any future career prospects. That's why our recidivism rates are so high, once you've gone to prison you are branded for life and can't get a job to support yourself, unless you do illegal things. Then it's back to jail, repeat until dead.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    John Fenderson (profile), 27 Feb 2015 @ 8:03am

    Intentionally unfair

    From the very start, I thought that mandatory sentencing was an intentional effort to make the sentence as unfair as possible, so they're divorced from justice by design.

    I think the argument has always been (to paraphrase) that if people know they won't get actual justice if they are convicted of these crimes, they'll be less likely to commit the crimes. It's crazy talk, of course, to claim that the path to justice is to remove justice from the legal system.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    GEMont (profile), 27 Feb 2015 @ 3:45pm

    Crimes of Morality

    Personally, I think that including sex as a part of any physical abuse offense is a silly and backwards notion.

    Its only sex when all parties consent to the act and then its all fun.

    Child molestation and rape are crimes of assault and forced control, and should be classed under the same offense level and type as kidnapping.

    After all, both are situations where adults are forcing someone to do things that they would not normally do and in the case of rape, the victim is forcibly restrained.

    Start charging these crimes against people as assault and kidnapping and watch the number of child molesters and rapists drop naturally.

    No need for new federal minimum sentencing guidelines then as the guidelines are already drawn up for assault and kidnapping.

    ----

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 27 Feb 2015 @ 4:28pm

      Re: Crimes of Morality


      Child molestation and rape are crimes of assault and forced control, and should be classed under the same offense level and type as kidnapping.


      If it's assault - and I agree that it is - why not treat it as assault, rather than kidnapping?

      in the case of rape, the victim is forcibly restrained.

      Not necessarily. In fact in the case of child sex assault I would guess they are usually not restrained (physically - I'm not suggesting an absence of coercion).

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    GEMont (profile), 28 Feb 2015 @ 4:51pm

    c'est la vie eh

    While this is definitely not the right forum for this discussion....

    "...why not treat it as assault, rather than kidnapping?"

    You missed the part after assault - forced control.

    When someone - not a duly designated officer of the law - holds you against your will, preventing you from leaving, what is this called legally? It is not assault.

    If the ransom demanded for freedom to leave is to allow the person holding you against your will to violate your person in any manner, should not that qualify as kidnapping?

    ---

    GEMont: "in the case of rape, the victim is forcibly restrained."

    nasch: "In fact in the case of child sex assault I would guess they are usually not restrained..."

    Which is why I stated above "in the case of rape".

    However, where a child is concerned, the society itself places the child under restraint via training of obedience to adults, so most often, no physical restraint is needed and simple guile and/or verbal coercion is sufficient effort to "restrain" the victim under the predator's control.

    The obvious difference in size between a child victim and an adult predator is usually enough to guide a child towards capitulation of demands without struggle.

    After the fact however, once the child has realized that he/she was abused, or at least that something "not right" has happened, the predator very often uses threats of future harm to induce silence in their victims.

    I see the predator's manipulation of the social obedience to adults a child is trained for, as criminal enough to qualify for status as forced restraint, and I see the threat of future harm to induce a fear of telling others about the abuse as criminal enough to qualify as a ransom demand for freedom.

    I am not a lawyer or a judge, and these are the only laws I can readily connect to the crimes.

    What I do not see, is how any of these crimes can be deemed sexual and it is this that was the point of my post.

    Once the sexual connotation is removed from these crimes, I am certain that other laws already on the books will be sufficient to deal with the perpetrators properly.

    As long as this is a moral crime, no justice is possible, and I do not think the law should be involved with either defining or policing morality anyway.

    ---

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 28 Feb 2015 @ 5:28pm

      Re: c'est la vie eh

      I'll let you decide if you think kidnapping is the most appropriate charge for assaulting a child.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kidnapping

      most often, no physical restraint is needed and simple guile and/or verbal coercion is sufficient effort to "restrain" the victim under the predator's control.

      I thought you meant physical restraint. And as I made quite clear, I definitely meant physical restraint.

      What I do not see, is how any of these crimes can be deemed sexual and it is this that was the point of my post.

      If a child is forced to have sexual contact with an adult, you don't see how that's sexual?

      As long as this is a moral crime, no justice is possible,

      What do you mean by this? Or in the words of Chandler Bing, "there's not a part of that sentence I don't need explained." ;-)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    GEMont (profile), 28 Feb 2015 @ 6:23pm

    What sacred cow did I step on this time??

    You really are the Champion of Popular Mythologies.

    From the Wiki link you posted: "..the unlawful taking away or transportation of a person against that person's will, usually to hold the person unlawfully. This may be done for ransom or in furtherance of another crime, or in connection with a child custody dispute."

    How does this differ from what I said?

    "When someone - not a duly designated officer of the law - holds you against your will, preventing you from leaving, what is this called legally? It is not assault.If the ransom demanded for freedom to leave is to allow the person holding you against your will to violate your person in any manner, should not that qualify as kidnapping?

    ---

    "I thought you meant physical restraint. And as I made quite clear, I definitely meant physical restraint."

    And as I made extremely clear, twice now, that comment starts with the words "in the case of rape", and does not pertain to child abuse.

    Twice now you have chosen to misread the text.

    That's a childish game.

    ---

    "If a child is forced to have sexual contact with an adult, you don't see how that's sexual?"

    Sexuality is an act that takes place between two or more consenting individuals. Any act that includes a non-consenting individual is not an act of sexuality, regardless of what particular actions may be performed upon that non-consenting individual, but an act of abuse or control.

    Very first sentence of the first post I made on this subject:

    "Personally, I think that including sex as a part of any physical abuse offense is a silly and backwards notion."

    ---

    As long as this is a moral crime, no justice is possible,

    "What do you mean by this? Or in the words of Chandler Bing, "there's not a part of that sentence I don't need explained." ;-)"

    And explained repeatedly it seems...

    Once again, if you cannot play nicely then I'm afraid you will have to play alone. While I'm always willing to use an abusive poster as an excuse to clarify my point, repetition is pointless once that poster becomes transparently belligerent.

    Have a nice day.

    ---

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 28 Feb 2015 @ 10:06pm

      Re: What sacred cow did I step on this time??

      OK new rule: don't reply to GEMont. :-)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Gwiz (profile), 1 Mar 2015 @ 10:12am

        Re: Re: What sacred cow did I step on this time??

        I've had a nagging suspicion that GEMont = OOTB for a couple of months now.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          nasch (profile), 1 Mar 2015 @ 12:05pm

          Re: Re: Re: What sacred cow did I step on this time??

          That doesn't sound right to me. GEMont seems thoughtful and smart, and I never got that impression of OOTB.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Gwiz (profile), 2 Mar 2015 @ 6:46am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: What sacred cow did I step on this time??

            That doesn't sound right to me. GEMont seems thoughtful and smart, and I never got that impression of OOTB.


            I always got the impression that OOTB was one of many online personas from the same person that tried to use different writing styles for each one. The OOTB character was definitely "redneck", but there were hints of intelligence in there even so.

            Like I said, it's just a nagging suspicion based on nothing more than some similar mannerisms and the general disdain OOTB regarded your questions with.

            But, hey, what do I know.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              nasch (profile), 2 Mar 2015 @ 7:25am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: What sacred cow did I step on this time??

              It could be, the person behind the name(s) could have more skill and intelligence than I give him or her or them credit for. It would take some real writing skill to come up with different styles, philosophies, and ideas, and stick to them consistently until it's time to switch to a new one.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              GEMont (profile), 2 Mar 2015 @ 5:23pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: What sacred cow did I step on this time??

              Might I suggest simply making an inquiry to the owners of this website, since they have all the particulars of every poster that registers here and can quickly verify the identity of disparate users.

              They would not need to disclose any personal data in order to state whether the two are separate entities or not and thus they might actually be willing to tell you whether GEMont is, or is not OutOfTheBlue.

              Its worth a try surely.

              ---

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • icon
                GEMont (profile), 3 Mar 2015 @ 11:57am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: What sacred cow did I step on this time??

                Unless of course, this is merely an attempt to besmirch the GEMont handle by trying to get other posters to think there might be some connection to the unanimously loathed handle, OOTB.

                Naw. You guys are too true-blue to try anything so despicable and underhanded and downright NSA-like, I'm sure.

                ================================================
                (We now return this blog to the topic at hand.)
                ================================================

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            GEMont (profile), 2 Mar 2015 @ 5:25pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: What sacred cow did I step on this time??

            " seems thoughtful and smart "

            Well, thankyuh, thankyuh veruh much! :)

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          GEMont (profile), 1 Mar 2015 @ 3:53pm

          Re: Re: Re: What sacred cow did I step on this time??

          Well, in truth, that was probably the best insult you could have come up with, Gwiz.

          For the record, no, I am not Out Of The Blue.

          And for the life of me, I cannot imagine how you could have made such an assumption. Obviously, your detective skills are not something you should rely on heavily in future.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Gwiz (profile), 2 Mar 2015 @ 6:52am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: What sacred cow did I step on this time??

            Well, in truth, that was probably the best insult you could have come up with, Gwiz.

            It wasn't an insult. Just a personal observation. I'm pretty sure that OOTB still lurks around and I suspect that he/she is using various other monikers these days.

            Some of the tangents and rants you sail off onto seem somewhat familiar to the ones I heard from OOTB, that's all.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              GEMont (profile), 2 Mar 2015 @ 5:01pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: What sacred cow did I step on this time??

              Oh, it was definitely an insult. :)
              Switch places and try it on for size.

              I've been here long enough to read a number of posts by OOTB, and like I said, I hope your not planning on launching a career that depends on the use of detective skills, or analytical ability, unless you're planning to hire folks that actually have some of either or both.

              I'm also hoping that your invocation of the demon's name does not cause it to manifest here once again. That would be on you.

              So what in particular did I post here that got your fine feathers all righteously ruffled?

              ---

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • icon
                Gwiz (profile), 3 Mar 2015 @ 7:42am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: What sacred cow did I step on this time??

                So what in particular did I post here that got your fine feathers all righteously ruffled?

                I'm not ruffled in the slightest. Just making an observation.

                As for the basis for my suspcion that arises not so much from this particlur thread, but from previous rants like this one, or this one, or this one, or this one, etc.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                • icon
                  GEMont (profile), 3 Mar 2015 @ 11:50am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: What sacred cow did I step on this time??

                  "..this one, or this one, or this one, or this one, etc."

                  And you disagree with all of those posts?? Impressive.

                  That explains much, but thanks for reading them anyways.

                  I do hope they did not in any way contaminate your mind with anything that's not on your approved thought list. :)

                  ---

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                  • icon
                    Gwiz (profile), 3 Mar 2015 @ 1:13pm

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: What sacred cow did I step on this time??

                    And you disagree with all of those posts?? Impressive.


                    You seem to be the king of putting words into other peoples mouths.

                    I never said I agreed nor disagreed with your rants - only that they bear a resemblance to OOTB's rants.


                    I do hope they did not in any way contaminate your mind with anything that's not on your approved thought list. :)

                    Now you are just being an ass. Have a nice life.

                    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                    • icon
                      nasch (profile), 3 Mar 2015 @ 1:40pm

                      Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: What sacred cow did I step on this time??

                      Now you are just being an ass.

                      Yeah... that was my conclusion as well. :-) Interesting ideas, but with a really unpleasant debate style.

                      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                      • icon
                        GEMont (profile), 3 Mar 2015 @ 4:22pm

                        Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: What sacred cow did I step on this time??

                        "I never said I agreed nor disagreed with your rants - only that they bear a resemblance to OOTB's rants."

                        Ah. Yes, they are indeed both composed of many words from the english language. I can see the source of your consternation now.

                        Would it perhaps be kinder of me to post in a manner more suited to your tastes, such as a tweet of 25 words or less maximum, per post?

                        ---

                        "You seem to be the king of putting words into other peoples mouths."

                        Really? A citation on that claim might go far towards giving it some veracity.

                        Please post links to some of the many examples of my putting words into other people's mouths.

                        ---

                        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                        • icon
                          GEMont (profile), 5 Mar 2015 @ 1:12am

                          Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: What sacred cow did I step on this time??

                          From GWiz: .................................

                          Ya that's what I thought you'd say.

                          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                      • icon
                        GEMont (profile), 3 Mar 2015 @ 4:30pm

                        Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: What sacred cow did I step on this time??

                        Unpleasant debate style!??!?!??!
                        Don't I say please sir, often enough??

                        Good grief nasch.

                        That is the lamest excuse I've heard from you ever.

                        You misread my post twice in a row and berate me for a bad debate style! That is truly arrogance without merit.

                        Well I think I'll leave you two boys to pat each other on the backs for a job well done. This is boring.

                        ---

                        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    GEMont (profile), 1 Mar 2015 @ 3:47pm

    In requiem

    Lets see now.

    I've lost the count. Is this the 2nd or 3rd time you have promised to not respond/reply to my posts.

    Dear nasch, should you ever actually desire to discuss a thing, or actually desire to achieve clarity of meaning through inquiry about anything I post, I will always be happy to respond. I may even continue to use your negative inquiries as a jumping board for further comments.

    However, you do only yourself harm by posting such blatantly facetious comments as this, as others are not as stupid as you seem to think they are and they too can see such remarks for what they really are.

    You have an otherwise excellent record as a Corrections Officer here and this attempted feud is destroying the integrity necessary to continue in that role.

    I realize that you are angry, and I somewhat understand that my methods of posting are an irritant you'd like to be rid of, however, this is not a method that will have any success in that regard.

    Your best bet is to petition the blog owners after gathering as many like minded posters as you can, and demanding my account be terminated. That has worked in the past. Otherwise, I'm afraid you will simply have to wait for nature to take its course.

    Fell free to ignore this post. :)

    My apologies to all for wasting space over this pointless post.

    ---

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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