In a nationwide series of hearings, members of the U.S. Sentencing Commission have heard from federal judges seeking reduced sentences for a group of defendants one would think unlikely to get sympathy from the bench: possessors of child pornography.
From New York to Chicago, and recently in Denver, federal judges have testified before the commission, which sets federal punishments, that the current sentencing structure for possessing and viewing child pornography is too severe.
The commission has made reviewing child-pornography sentencing guidelines a priority of its work, which will end in May and could include a change to the guidelines to allow shorter sentences for future offenders.
Judges, for the most part, have based their argument on a belief that some of the defendants who view child pornography have never molested a child or posed a risk to the community and may be better served by treatment rather than prison.
As federal guidelines now stand, the number of images and the way the contraband is obtained enhance prison terms. A first-time offender with no criminal history can be sentenced to 10 years in federal prison.