Judge Weinstein and Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Laws

Story here.

I’m conflicted on this effort by Judge Weinstein. To a certain extent, I wonder whether or not he’s overstepping his judicial authority in attempting to “correct” or “rewrite” statutory regulations approved by the Legislature. If there were ever an apt example of the “judicial activism” that conservatives were freaking out about during the 2004 and 2006 elections, this would be it. Judge Weinstein, despite his best intentions, is allowing his own personal and political opinions to sway how he understands the law that he is charged to interpret and hand down in the court room. My question is whether or not the courtroom is the most appropriate place for Judge Weinstein (and other judges as mentioned in the article) to wage this battle? Especially since other offenders are still being sentenced to the minimum five year sentence at the very least.

As to the issue itself, wow. What a divisive issue. Critics of efforts by Judge Weinstein & Co. are correct in the very basic claim that if there is no demand, there is no reason for the supply. If there was not such a market for child pornography all over the world, there would not be a “need” (and I use that term with a HUGE grain of salt) for the thousands if not tens of thousands of children that are sexually exploited every year. By attacking the so-called source of the market, e.g. the consumer, then you may be able to decrease the overall market and make it less profitable to child pornographers and thus, decrease overall exploitation.

But that’s quite a few links that need to fall in place before an actual decrease in exploitation actually occurs. In the meantime, you have numerous “offenders” who are incarcerated for at least five years if not ten or twenty in an incredibly over-crowded prison system. The designation of “sex offender,” which all people convicted of the possession of child pornography are rightfully designated, is more than enough to dramatically alter the life of that offender for the rest of his or her life. Sex offenders are not allowed to work in a number of industries, required to register their addresses which are publicly available, and are often subject to monitoring and additional requirements that differ state-by-state. The conviction itself is significant, and Judge Weinstein does have a point.

Additionally, mandatory minimum sentencing laws have historically seemed doomed to failure. Witness the infamous Rockefeller drug laws in New York State, which finally bit the dust last year. Even though the war on drugs continues, mandatory minimum sentencing laws as they pertain to offenders convicted of possession are being rescinded. Will the same happen with laws pertaining to possession of child pornography? And is it necessary to incarcerate someone in possession (not the actual producers who are arguably the primary exploiters) for five, ten, twenty years?


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