A Prosecutor Agrees With Me

March 4, 2010

A writer for The Atlantic, Megan McArdle, did a piece on non-offending pedophiles. She dragged child porn into the piece, and demonstrates a limited and simplistic understanding of the subject, stating “because the man who purchases child pornography is encouraging its manufacture”. The unstated premise of that statement is that child porn is typically purchased, which is completely unsubstantiated.

In a brief follow up, she publishes an e-mail she received from an anonymous prosecutor. Part of the prosecutor’s e-mail says:

I have seen a good number of men go to prison for child pornography that is found on their computers, and I must say that I’m not exactly sure how I feel about it. During my first few years as a prosecutor I wanted them locked up for as long as possible for two obvious reasons: first, they may very likely act out on their desires and victimize a child (who will of course be likely to victimize another child when they reach adult age). Second, as a way to deter the manufacturing of child pornography by removing the possible market. I’ve come to realize that the second reason is about as hopeless as thinking that by locking up drug users I can stop drug dealers. The market will always be there.

The prosecutor’s first reason is really outside the scope of CP Explosion, so I’ll only say that I’m unaware of any study purporting to show a link between child porn viewing and sexual crimes against children that isn’t crippled by sample bias. The second reason though is eerily reminiscent of the position held by LEAP regarding drugs.

There are no scientific studies I’m aware of, but all the anecdotal evidence suggests that no “penalty” will discourage people from seeking out child porn. A combination of factors including long prison sentences, extreme ostracism, and a feeling that there’s little hope of even getting a fair trail if accused have completely failed to deter people from seeking out child porn. I don’t think that even implementing capital punishment for child porn possession would make more than a minor impact on the child porn trade. The use of the term “trade” rather than “market” is intentional and almost certainly more accurate.

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