MN Called on to Change Child Pornography Sentencing Practices

MINNESOTA – A national child protection organization is calling on Minnesota to reevaluate its child pornography sentencing practices.

The national pro-child, anti-crime group PROTECT released a report Tuesday titled “Children Betrayed,” on the decriminalization of child sexual exploitation crimes in Minnesota.

The report calls Minnesota’s sentencing practices “shocking and dramatically out of step with national and state trends,” and finds that Minnesota judges award probation for possession and distribution of child pornography in approximately 90% of all cases.

The group is calling out the legislature, the Minnesota Sentencing Guideline Commission (MSGC), and Minnesota judges for decriminalizing child exploitation crimes in their state.

“When we started to look at Minnesota we thought we would find a few bad judges,” said Camille Cooper, co-author of the report and Director of Government Affairs for PROTECT. “Instead we found a complete system-wide failure to hold very dangerous child predators accountable. We were stunned. Minnesota is a dangerous state for an abused child.”

The report found the MSGC sex offender sentencing grid recommends that judges give sentences of probation for the possession, dissemination, and/or production of child abuse imagery (also known as “child pornography”). The report states:

“Investigators, forensic analysts and child exploitation prosecutors have some of the most difficult jobs in America, viewing horrific video and imagery every day of children—often infants and toddlers—being raped, tortured and sexually abused. … Yet, at the conclusion of 90% of these cases, these front-line heroes know the demoralizing and dangerous truth: Minnesota judges will award these perpetrators with probation.”

The report cites several studies showing that at least 55% of offenders who possess and distribute child pornography are also “hands-on offenders,” committing crimes of sexual violence against children in their own circles of trust and communities across Minnesota.

PROTECT says they will release a complete report late November looking at all Minnesota sex crimes against children and the response to those crimes by social services, law enforcement, prosecutors and the judiciary.

Multiple sources within the legislature say that investigations are being made into the matter, and lawmakers should be announcing plans to address this issue during the upcoming legislative session.