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Why is the Bureau of Prisons Squelching a Child Porn Link to Molestation?

Reporters Julian Sher and Benedict Carey of The New York Times got their hands on a leaked copy of a prison study suggesting a link between viewing child pornography and molesting children.  The U.S. Bureau of Prisons (BOP) wants to keep it in isolation. To their credit, Sher and Carey blew the lid off the study in their July 19 article,  “Debate on Child Pornography's Link to Molesting.”


Most experts they've talked to agree that the study should be published, though they are debating “how the findings should be presented or interpreted.” So why doesn't the BOP want the study published? Are officials more concerned about misinterpretations than protecting kids?


Judith Simon Garrett, assistant general counsel at the BOP, is heavily involved in squelching the study.  Editors at The Journal of Family Violence,” a peer-reviewed academic journal, agreed to publish the study until they received a letter from Garrett asking them to withdraw it because it did not meet “agency approval,” according to Sher and Carey, who also received a copy of Garrett's letter.


Some research on Garrett may explain what's motivating BOP censorship. Garrett is co-editor of Prison and Jail Administration: Practice and Theory, a collection of essays published in 1999, to which she contributed three chapters.  Her chapter, “Political Involvement in Penal Operations,” has a BOP disclaimer stating: “Opinions expressed in this chapter are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of the Bureau of Prisons or the U.S. Department of Justice.”


Garrett writes that she doesn't appreciate “federal and state legislators” who “have taken unprecedented steps toward micromanaging correctional operations” such as “enacting longer sentences and placing new restrictions on early release mechanisms.”


Most telling are her comments about efforts “to limit programs in jails and prisons.” She writes: “Until recently, federal prison officials were prohibited from distributing to inmates any commercially published material that contained nudity or sexually explicit pictures.”


Garrett's own work has been published with a BOP disclaimer. Why isn't she urging the BOP to do the same here? Is it because she thinks “programs” that permit prisoners access to pornography are acceptable, and the study could prove her wrong?


Garrett cites a federal district court ruling that struck down the BOP porn regulations as unconstitutional. However, she doesn't mention a ruling by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals that upheld BOP regulations and that the Supreme Court denied review. The Ninth Circuit also upheld a similar prohibition implemented by Sheriff Joe Arpaio in the Maricopa County, Arizona jail system.


Garrett refers to Arpaio's “spartan manner” of jail operations because “he makes some inmates to sleep in tents, and, if they are sex offenders, to wear pink underwear.”


Oh, the humanity!


In the study suppressed by the BOP, psychologists Andres E. Hernandez and Michael L. Bourke focused on 155 male inmates who had volunteered to be treated at the Federal Correctional Institution in Butner, N.C. Their study reports on the proportion of men who download explicit sexual images of children and also molest them.


According to Sher and Carey, the study “suggests that the number may be startlingly high: 85 percent of the offenders said they had committed acts of sexual abuse against minors, from inappropriate touching to rape.” It “is the first in-depth survey of such online offenders' sexual behavior done by prison therapists who were actively performing treatment.”


Sher and Carey report that “previous studies based on surveys of criminal records, estimated that 30 percent to 40 percent of those arrested for possessing child pornography also had molested children.”


Dr. Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, told the Times that he was surprised that the full study had not been released. “This is the kind of research the public needs to know about.”


Garrett and the BOP need to explain:


    Why doesn't the study “meet agency approval”? Why, according to two unnamed prosecutors, did Garrett and the BOP prevent Hernandez and Bourke from speaking to law enforcement conferences about their research? Why doesn't the BOP trust the peer-review process? Why doesn't the BOP at least permit Hernandez and Bourke to publish their study with a BOP disclaimer as it did for Garrett? If a study is publishable showing that “30 percent to 40 percent of those arrested for possessing child pornography also had molested children,” why not the Hernandez-Bourke study?

If you're surprised to find that a very high percentage of men who look at child pornography also molest children, ask yourself if you think you're more or less likely to blow your diet if you stare at photos of your favorite food.


For the “experts” who promote the brain-dead theory that looking at child porn prevents molestation, here' a legal term for your theory: Crockus Humungus.

 

Jan Larue is a member of the Culture and Media Institute's Board of Advisors.