1996 Report to the Congress: Sex Offenses Against Children

The United States Sentencing Commission submits this report at the request of Congress on a subject of deep concern -- sex offenses against children. In The Sex Crimes Against Children Prevention Act of 1995 (SCACPA), Congress addressed the serious problem of child pornography and other sex crimes against children and directed the Commission to increase certain penalties for these crimes. The Commission carried out that directive on April 30, 1996 by submitting to Congress guideline amendments that raised the penalties. The SCACPA also directed the Commission to prepare this report, analyzing the sentences imposed for these offenses, and to recommend additional amendments as appropriate. The Commission shares Congressional concerns about protecting America's children from sex offenders and has joined in the effort to do so by recommending a number of amendments that would target the most dangerous offenders, raise sentences, and improve the operation of the guidelines.

Key Actions

  • As directed in the SCACPA, the Commission increased sentences for all pornography guidelines by approximately 25%. Sentences for promotion of prostitution and prohibited sexual conduct were increased by about one third. In addition, a further 25% increase was provided for the use of a computer in child pornography offenses.
  • The Commission increased pornography production sentences by 25% if computers were used to solicit participation in sexually explicit conduct by or with a minor for the production of child pornography.
  • In order to ensure lengthy incarceration of the most dangerous repeat offenders, the Commission expanded the definition of a "pattern of activity" involving the sexual exploitation or abuse of a minor as applied to pornography trafficking offenses. Sentences will be increased by five offense levels -- a potential doubling of the sentence -- for offenders who engage in a pattern of activity, whether or not the conduct is part of the offense of conviction. Sentences may also be imposed above the guideline range by upward departure if the pattern of activity adjustment does not adequately reflect the seriousness of the offense.