The Condemnation of Scopophilia: How the Federal Sentencing Guidelines Perpetuate Rather Than Discourage Child Pornography Offenses

In 1987, the U.S. Sentencing Commission created its first federal sentencing guideline for child pornography offenses. As Congress grappled with dynamic technological advances that changed the child pornography landscape, the Commission continually revised and amended these guidelines, creating the last significant amendment in 2009. For the past 12 years, these guidelines have been considered by federal court judges tasked with sentencing child pornography offenders, yet little has been done to determine whether or not these guidelines actually diminish the amount of children victimized by child pornography. While acknowledging that child pornography victimizes and harms children in countless ways and must be criminalized to account for these egregious harms, this Note argues that the sentencing guidelines fail to deter the production, distribution, and consumption of child pornography, and fail to fulfill congressional goals of protecting children from victimization. Rather, the guidelines have resulted in the mass incarceration of child pornography offenders and a system that punishes viewers of child pornography more severely than it does child rapists. If the government truly wants to protect children from being victimized through child pornography, then the sentencing guidelines, as written, cannot stand, and they must be replaced by a system that allows child pornography offenders to access rehabilitative resources both inside and outside of the federal prison system.