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March 2016 Archives

Assessing the Link Between Viewing Child Pornography and Child Sexual Abuse

Significant research has been performed in order to determine whether the viewing of child pornography makes a person more likely to participate in child sexual abuse. Three popular opinions exist as to this statement: (1) no relationship exists between the viewing of child pornography and the perpetration of child sexual abuse; (2) viewing child pornography makes the person no more likely to commit child sexual abuse; and (3) viewing child pornography makes the person more likely to commit child sexual abuse due to the normalization of the person's sexual interest in children. While some studies have indicated correlation--but not causation--between the two acts, a 2012 report by the United States Sentencing Commission (USSC) indicates that the likelihood of commission of child sexual abuse rests more heavily on the individual's characteristics rather than the individual's viewing of child pornography.

Loophole in law can inadvertently reveal youthful convictions

A couple of weeks back, we discussed the landmark 1963 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Gideon v. Wainwright and how it required all states to ensure that all criminal defendants had an attorney representing them, even people who could not afford one on their own. This decision led to the creation of public defender systems in many states and counties that had not previously provided such a vital service.

Raising the Age Maximum for Juvenile Justice System

The juvenile justice system is a separate court system, traditionally focused on the rehabilitation of the juvenile offender rather than punishment. This goal reflects research that suggests that the frontal lobe of the brain does not fully develop until a person's mid- to late-twenties. The frontal lobe is the portion of the brain responsible for empathy, judgment, impulse control, and decision-making. This research helps to explain why younger people tend to make rash decisions and can be easily influenced by peers and addictive substances. These characteristics can sometimes lead young people to become involved in the criminal justice system. When they do, the juvenile justice system is specially designed to take into account their age and related immaturity and capacity for change.

How Gideon won the right to counsel for all American defendants

Today, we in Michigan take for granted that if we are ever charged with a crime, we have the right to have a defense attorney representing us, whether we can afford to pay the fee or not. But this was not the law of the land until surprisingly recently.

New Limitations on Solitary Confinement

Earlier this year, President Obama banned federal prisons from holding juveniles in solitary confinement, citing the often devastating psychological consequences that result from solitary confinement. The usage of solitary confinement in prisons has been "linked to depression, alienation, withdrawal, a reduced ability to interact with others and the potential for violent behavior." Along with banning the usage of solitary confinement for juveniles, President Obama also created new rules limiting the usage of solitary confinement on adults. For example, prisoners can no longer be punished with solitary confinement for a low-level infraction. Prisoners, upon their first infraction meriting solitary confinement, may only be placed in solitary confinement for 60 days, instead of 365, the former maximum.

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