For the Children...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Radley Balko has a thoughtful piece in this months Reason on how some prosecutors are treating the gorwing trend of 'sexting' and teens posting exlicit pictures of themselves. He points out how some jurisdictions are charging these teens as child pornographers where they could receive prison terms up to 10 years. As a parent, I would probably be pretty shoacked and angry if my kid were doing this, but I don't think the way to deal with a knuckleheaded, impulsive teen is to ruin their life with a child porn felony conviction.

The root disconnect, here, is that the law treats pre-pubescent sex crimes on par with crimes related to teenagers who are sexually mature. Fact is, teenagers become sexually mature years before it's socially or legally permissible to think about them that way. That they're then having sex is nothing new. Nor is the fact that teens make rash, emotional, spur-of-the-moment decisions. What's new is that they're able to document it all in ways that can quickly escape their control. What they need after the fact are responsible adults who can walk them through a poor decision, appropriately reprimand or punish them if necessary, but all while keeping things in perspective, and minimizing the long-term consequences for the teen. Dumping the kid into the criminal justice system has all the subtlety and precision of dropping an anvil on the problem from 40 stories above.


Bob 12:19 PM  

Add to this the fact that Michigan has a crazy sex offender registry and a kid who does something stupid at age 15 is branded a child pornographer until they are 40 years old.

steves 3:19 PM  

Good point. Having a kiddie porn charge on your record will pretty much prevent you from ever getting any kind of job with a background check.

Rickey Henderson 4:34 PM  

Goddamnitm, where in the name of fuck were these kids when Rickey was in high school?

Smitty 8:43 AM  

Where was this technology when I was in high school? I mean, when I wanted to see boobs in high school, I had to put forth effort. Now kids just get them on their cell phones.

In all seriousness...our obsession with sex leads directly to ruining lives without the ability of judges, in some cases, to make a rational sentencing decision.

Even when it comes to rape, the competence of youth of certain ages to stand trial and understand the consequences of their actions is in question. But those harder crimes aside, the innocuous activities like flashing, sexting, peeing on buildings, etc, shouldn't ruin someone's life. This zero-tolerance stuff is out of control, when zero tolerance means "no mistakes ever."

Bob 8:50 AM  

"This zero-tolerance stuff is out of control, when zero tolerance means 'no mistakes ever.'"

People have taken "zero tolerance to mean "zero due process:

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