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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2021 - 2022 Regular Session


Posted: January 13, 2021 04:29 PM
From: Senator David J. Arnold, Jr. and Sen. Lisa Baker
To: All Senate members
Subject: Enhancing the Penalties for Child Pornography / Establishment of the 'Task Force on Child Pornography'
SB 1075 2021 Co-Sponsorship Memo
In the near future, Senator Lisa Baker and I will be introducing legislation that will:
  1. Increase penalties for those convicted of child pornography, where those images or videos depict a victim that is younger than 10 years of age, or prepubescent; and
  2. Permit the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing to provide a sentence enhancement for those convicted of the sexual abuse of children, when the person depicted is known to the defendant; and
  3. Establish a two-year, 23-member Task Force on Child Pornography. Several of the members have experience in the treatment of victims and prevention of child pornography and child sexual abuse. The Task Force will develop a report with guidance, tools, and actionable items for sexual abuse prevention and intervention mechanisms.
The unfortunate reality is, the crime of viewing child pornography on a digital screen and the incident in which the actual photographs and/or videos were taken are often considered separately. The act of touching a child inappropriately and documenting that incident is reprehensible. Those consuming that documented material through child pornography are equally as guilty through their creation of a market/demand for the vile content.

That is why we are proposing that Pennsylvania enhance the criminal penalties for some of the most disgusting acts committed against defenseless and vulnerable children. The criminal justice system should no longer simply penalize those who ‘only look but do not touch’ with a slap on the wrist. These penalties should be brought more in line with the offenders who are actually taking the photographs or videos and inappropriately touching young children.

According to this legislation, an individual who is convicted of possessing child pornography in which the person depicted is less than 10 years of age, or prepubescent, would receive a charge that is one grade higher than current statute allows. According to Title 18, §6312(d.1) (Grading for sexual abuse of children) this would mean a felony of the third degree would become a felony of the second degree, and a felony of the second degree would become a felony of the first degree.

This proposal is aimed at protecting children under the age of 10, or prepubescent children, who are inherently vulnerable. These young children often lack the ability to cognitively understand the abuse they are enduring. While they may not understand it in the moment, the effects of the abuse they have suffered can last a lifetime. This legislation aims to hold those who target the youngest and most vulnerable more accountable for their appalling acts.

The second portion of this legislation deals with sentencing enhancements for those who sexually abuse children that are known to them, and would allow the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing to develop guidelines for these crimes. Well over two-thirds of all children who are sexually abused suffer the abuse at the hands of a known perpetrator.

It’s time to hold the individuals who commit these heinous acts accountable, provide appropriate sentences, and develop forward-looking solution to an ever-growing problem.

A similar product passed the Senate on October 6, 2020 by a voteof 50-0.

We hope you will join us in cosponsoring this critical legislation to protect our children.

Introduced as SB87