2012 Report to the Congress: Federal Child Pornography Offenses


This report is the result of a multi-year study by the Commission and complements and expands upon the Commission's 2009 report, The History of the Child Pornography Guidelines. The primary focus of this report is USSG §2G2.2, the current guideline for non-production offenses such as possession, receipt, transportation, and distribution of child pornography, the four primary offense types. The purpose of this report is to contribute to the ongoing assessment by Congress and the various stakeholders in the federal criminal justice system regarding how federal child pornography offenders are prosecuted, sentenced, incarcerated, and supervised following their reentry into the community. (December 2012)

Key Findings

  • Child pornography offenses result in substantial and indelible harm to the children who are victimized by both production and non-production offenses.
  • The Commission believes that the current non-production guideline warrants revision in view of its outdated and disproportionate enhancements related to offenders’ collecting behavior as well as its failure to account fully for some offenders’ involvement in child pornography communities and sexually dangerous behavior. 
  • A revised guideline that more fully accounts for the full range of an offender’s collecting behavior, the degree of his involvement in a child pornography community, and any history of sexually dangerous behavior — would better promote proportionate sentences and reflect the statutory purposes of sentencing. 
  • The Commission also suggests that Congress may wish to revise the penalty structure governing distribution offenses in order to differentiate among the wide array of newer and older technologies used by offenders to distribute child pornography.
  • The Commission also recommends to Congress that it consider amending the notice and restitution statutes for victims of child pornography offenses.







CHAPTER 1 — The Purposes and Methodology of this Report

CHAPTER 2 — Statutory and Guideline Provisions in Child Pornography Cases

CHAPTER 3 — Technology and Investigation by Law Enforcement in Child Pornography Cases

CHAPTER 4 — Child Pornography Offender Behavior

CHAPTER 5 — Victims of Child Pornography

CHAPTER 6 — Analysis of Sentencing Data in Cases in Which Offenders Were Sentenced Under the Non-Production Sentencing Guidelines

CHAPTER 7 — Prior Criminal Sexually Dangerous Behavior by Offenders Sentenced under the Non-Production Child Pornography Guidelines

CHAPTER 8 — Examination of Sentencing Disparities in §2G2.2 Cases

CHAPTER 9 — Child Pornography Production Cases

CHAPTER 10 — Post-Conviction Issues in Child Pornography Cases

CHAPTER 11 — Recidivism by Child Pornography Offenders

CHAPTER 12 — Findings, Conclusions, and Recommendations to Congress


  1. Glossary of Relevant Terminology
  2. Current Versions of the Primary Child Pornography Sentencing Guidelines, USSG §§ 2G2.1 and 2G2.2, and the Sentencing Table (USSG Chpt. 5, Pt. A)
  3. Summaries of the Testimony of the Witnesses, United States Sentencing Commission — Sentencing Reform Act 25th Anniversary Regional Public Hearings
  4. Summaries of the Testimony of the Witnesses, United States Sentencing Commission — Public Hearing on Federal Child Pornography Crimes
  5. Source of Current §2G2.2 Base Offense Levels and Specific Offense Characteristics
  6. State Child Pornography Statutes
  7. Report to the Congress: Federal Child Pornography Offenses — Selected Bibliography