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Dispatches from Dr. Joel Dvoskin: June 2010

Poor Judgement and Bad Journalism

by Joel A. Dvoskin, Ph.D., ABPP (Forensic)
University of Arizona College of Medicine
Past President, American Psychology-Law Society (APA Division 41)
Past President, Psychologists in Public Service (APA Division 18)


The May 22 New York Times included an article by A.G. Sulzberger, in which Federal Judge Jack B. Weinstein is uncritically portrayed as a Quixotic hero for his refusal to enforce federal laws relating to child pornography. Judge Weinstein's position is based upon his assertion that the offender poses "no risk." The article failed miserably in its duty to examine the stated reasons for Judge Weinstein's position.

The reporter made no effort to challenge the absurd assertion that child pornography in general and this offender in particular pose no harm to children. Let's take these two questions in reverse order. In regard to the risk posed by this particular offender, the judge provided no basis for this assertion; or at least none was reported in the article. But neither Judge Weinstein nor anyone else can accurately predict the risk posed by this man. Apologists for possessors of child pornography, many of whom make their living providing "treatment" for such offenders, frequently assert that possessing images of children being raped has no relationship to hands-on offending. However, the research upon which these assertions are founded is based solely on detected offenses—i.e., those offenses that are reported, successfully investigated, prosecuted, not plea-bargained or charge-bargained into non-sexual charges, and upheld on appeal—and thus represents only a miniscule portion of the actual number of sexual offenses against children in the United States.

A.G. Sulzberger also failed to mention a recent study by psychologists at the Federal Bureau of Prisons, which reported an alarmingly high rate of previously undocumented hands-on sexual offenses by inmates whose only detected crime was possession of child pornography. (For a presentation on this research by Dr. Andres Hernandez, see click here.) While this research is based solely on self-reporting, and represents only one study, its results ought to be troubling to child-pornography apologists. At the very least, it it is quite simply a matter of fact that neither Judge Weinstein nor anyone else can accurately and honestly say that this offender poses no risk of sexual violence toward children.

Second, although it is mentioned briefly, A.G. Sulzberger also fails to adequately question the judge's failure to address the danger posed to the children who are raped in the production of these images. This danger is not a matter of speculation, as the judge had the evidence of these crimes before him, in the images portrayed in the pornography that was the basis for the charges. Every time the offender paid for a downloaded image of a child being raped, he was funding the crime. This is not speculation, as child pornography is well documented as a multibillion-dollar business. Judge Weinstein might not want to think about this, but each of the children whose rape was partially funded by this offender was a very real person, and one who suffered harm not only at the time of the rape, but every time the image is downloaded and passed around.

According to the reprehensible logic of Judge Weinstein, if a man pays someone to kill his enemies, the man poses no risk, simply because he is paying someone else to do the deed. By that logic, a drug lord who regularly orders "hits" (murders-for-hire) poses no risk to anyone, since he doesn't personally pull the trigger.

Judge Weinstein has a lifetime appointment, and little can be done about him except to reverse his rulings on appeal. Further, our system of lifetime appointments, which has had the salutary effect of limiting partisanship on the federal bench, has always had the problem of outlier judges who let their idiosyncratic beliefs influence their rulings. However, the Times has a duty to examine all sides of controversial stories, and in my opinion, A.G. Sulzberger failed this duty miserably.

Unless and until the demand for child pornography decreases, untold numbers of children will continue to be raped for profit. Judge Weinstein is not a Quixotic hero; he is a dangerous fool.


© Copyright 2010 Joel A. Dvoskin

For more information about Dr. Joel A. Dvoskin, or to read more articles by this leading leading forensic psychologist, click here.



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