Despite Congress' longstanding mandate that each and every federal child pornography defendant pay restitution to victims, in reality the vast majority of convicted child pornography criminals pay no restitution at all.
New facts present an equally dismal reality for victims of child rape and sexual assault which results in child pornography.
Of 1922 child pornography cases in the federal court system in 2013, no fine or restitution was ordered in 1423 of those cases. That means that 74% of convicted criminals subject to Congress' mandatory restitution requirement under current law were ordered to pay NOTHING.
Just 286 offenders—or about 15% of convicted defendants—were ordered to pay any restitution.
Shockingly, 190 defendants who were found financially capable of paying a fine (which means the probation officer determined that the defendant had demonstrated financial resources) were not ordered to pay restitution.
Only 23 defendants were ordered to pay both a fine and restitution.
Of 437 child pornography defendants who were ordered to pay anything—either a fine or restitution or both—the median payment ordered was just $3000.
Clearly, full mandatory restitution for child pornography crimes, from every defendant in every case for every victim, is an illusion. If it passes, the bipartisan Amy and Vicky Child Pornography Victim Restitution Improvement Act of 2014 will guarantee that victims receive restitution from every convicted criminal in every case. No longer will victims be relegated to a handful of defendants paying token amounts in just a few dozen cases per year.
Mandatory restitution should be just that—mandatory. As I discussed here, Congress should pass S. 2301 / H.R. 4981 this session. Child pornography victims deserve no less than full compensation for their endless online exploitation. Congress must fix the law to restore justice and fairness to a restitution system which has gone seriously awry.
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