Friday, May 30, 2014

Federal Bill SB2301: The Amy and Vicky Child Pornography Victim Restitution Improvement Act of 2014



Congress Proposes to Fix Restitution for Child Pornography Victims, July 25, 2014

Original Post:

This is a follow up to the  May 14, 2014 post when I first found the text to proposed legislation SB2301: “The Amy and Vicky Child Pornography Victim Restitution Improvement Act of 2014” submitted in Response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Ruling in Paroline v. United States. 

I’ve been mulling this bill over for over 2 weeks; I’ve also been checking other “reform” websites and not one has posted about SB2301 as if it doesn’t exist. 

SB2301’s goal is to amend section 2259 of title 18, United States Code. Proponents state that child pornography victims are especially in need of restitution to help put their lives back together and that the victim’s lifetime of losses include:  

1.       medical services relating to physical, psychiatric, or psychological care;
2.      physical and occupational therapy or rehabilitation;
3.      necessary transportation, temporary housing, and child care expenses;
4.      lost income;
5.       attorneys’ fees, as well as other costs incurred; and
6.      any other losses suffered by the victim as a proximate result of the offense 

In simple bullet points, this is what SB2301 would do:

I.      If a victim was harmed by a single defendant, the defendant must pay full restitution for all her losses
II.   If a victim was harmed by multiple individuals, including those not yet identified, a judge can impose restitution on an individual defendant in two ways depending on the circumstances of the case the defendant must pay “the full amount of the victim’s losses” or, if less than the full amount,
at least:
v      $250,000 for production
v      $150,000 for distribution
v      $25,000 for possession  

Federal law already provides a mechanism for creating a restitution payment schedule. 

Multiple defendants who have harmed the same victim and have paid at least those minimum amounts may sue each other to spread the restitution cost (the Supreme Court said in Paroline that this is important)  

So why should we care about this proposal? 

Well because we know that the U.S. Government has not taken the lead in blocking child pornography from the Internet like Europe has but actually baits U.S. citizens with existing sites and on-line stings. We also know that possession of child pornography carries prison sentences as high or higher than that of production of child pornography.  

If the U.S. Government went after the websites and the producers of the Child Pornography then there would be no viewers/customers, no industry at all. But they don’t! Our Government continues to go after the viewers/customers because there are more “possessors” and “distributors” than there are abusers/ “producers”. 

There is a lot of money at stake in the prosecution, incarceration, restitution, probation, therapy and monitoring of those who possess child pornography. Federal grants, State grants, Annual  Budgets, Civil Restitution, Seizure of Personal Property, Prison bed quotas, local communities depending on prison jobs, Therapy Providers, Polygraph Examiners, Probation Officers, Halfway Houses, GPS Fees, Dept. of Social Services, VSP Sex Offender Compliance Officers and the list goes on and on. C.P Possessors are the “cash cows” and keeps the money flowing for all these departments and programs. 

I agree with restitution from the person or persons who produce the child pornography, they are the ones who had contact and abused the victim. They are the reason the image(s) exist in the first place. IF the amount of the restitution is not so excessive that it leaves the convicted persons family destitute, dependent on social services, without a pension or homeless. The spouse, children or parents of the person convicted should not be left with a financial burden simply because they are related.  

As an RSO or the loved one of an RSO you know how difficult it is to secure employment and housing to provide not only for yourself but your family. That Small Business Loans, HUD Housing and Veterans Benefits are all resources no longer available to you. AND when HR2642 was signed by the President on February 7, 2014 you lost the ability to apply for Food Stamps (if your conviction is 2014 or later).   

There must be a balance when it comes to Federal restitution laws/amounts and telling the offenders to sue each other to spread the costs more evenly across them, is NOT a balance, a solution or justice.  

As for financial restitution from someone who viewed/possessed or distributed (emailed) an image or images when they’ve never had contact with the child in the image or never profited from selling the image(s), I 100% oppose the current law and this proposal assigning specific dollar values.  

Perhaps if folks questioned and opposed the original law as it was making its way through the process a better law would have been conceived years ago that was directed specifically at those who produce the image and abuse the children then we wouldn’t have this run-away train sweeping up everyone and treating them all the same. But no one stood up and asked questions, they all hopped on the bandwagon against predators, perverts and pedophiles.

I initially considered making this post an action item against SB2301 but then I decided against it as there is a zero chance any lawmaker will vote against this bill. The band-wagon effect will win again.

We have to pick our battles and while restitution from viewers and possessors of child pornography is vengeful, misdirected, encourages victim’s to become career deadbeats who are allowed to sue a bottomless pit (tens of thousands of people) for decades and it undermines any successful reentry into society for those who are released from prison and told to become productive citizens, it’s here to stay.