American author John Grisham has become the center of a great deal of controversy after a recent interview where he explained that U.S. judges have “gone nuts” with locking up sex offenders and not everyone who looks at child pornography is necessarily a pedophile. Grisham’s reasoning, although perhaps slightly warped, coincides with a growing consensus among intellectuals that imprisoning those who view child porn may not be the most effective solution.
In an interview with The Telegraph, Grisham explained how he “had no sympathy for a real pedophile” but believed that “60-year-old white men” who had “never harmed anybody” and “would never touch a child” did not deserve to be sent to prison for 10 years. This is not Grisham’s first time criticizing the American judicial system. In the past, he had commented on how he thought U.S. judges went overboard and didn’t need to lock up white collar criminals or young teens on petty drug charges, The Telegraph reported. Still, this latest accusation is bound to be the most shocking.
Grisham justifies his belief by recanting the story of his friend who, in a drunken stupor, “pushed the wrong buttons, went too far, and got into child porn.” He claims the site said “16-year-old wanna-be hookers,” and although the man never physically touched a child, he was still arrested in a child porn sting. “He shouldn’t ’a done it. It was stupid, but it wasn’t 10-year-old boys. He didn’t touch anything. And God, a week later there was a knock on the door: ‘FBI!’” explained Grisham, adding “There’s so many of them now.“
His argument, however, does hold truth; there has been an increase in prosecution of child porn users. The Families Against Mandatory Minimums reports that the average length of federal sentences for child pornography has increased by 500 percent.
An increasing amount of health professionals have begun to agree with Grisham’s belief that those who view child porn do not deserve such severe jail sentencing, although not for the same reason. Instead, these professionals argue that pedophilia is a sexuality some people are born with and should be controlled rather than punished.
As reported by Slate, a growing section of the psychiatric community believes that the best way to prevent abuse before it happens is to reach out to the abuser and treat them before they do commit a crime. Dr. Margo Kaplan, an assistant professor at Rutgers School of Law, explains how “our laws ignore pedophilia until after the commission of a sexual offense, emphasizing punishment, not prevention,” and so she argues for removing the barriers to pedophiles stepping out of the shadows and seeking help to “advance efforts to protect children from harm,” Medical Daily reported.
Understandably so, these calls for reduced punishment for those who view child pornography have been meet with a considerable amount of criticism. “Mr. Grisham’s comments send a dangerous message that ‘just looking’ at images online causes no harm,” Jon Brown, from the children’s charity NSPCC, told BBC News online, emphasizing that each face in pornographic images is a child who has suffered, and clicking on the images perpetuates the abuse.