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It Shouldn’t Be Hard To Condemn Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Leniency For Child Predators

Ketanji Brown Jackson’s record on child predators is highly relevant to her qualifications as a Supreme Court judge.


Joe Biden has nominated Ketanji Brown Jackson to be the newest Supreme Court justice, a seat held for life. Immediately, Sen. Josh Hawley brought forward concerns about Jackson’s history of leniency toward child predators.

In a Twitter thread, Hawley cited multiple examples of this, using Jackson’s own words and sentencing history as a federal judge. This includes Jackson questioning whether child sex predators should be forced to register as sex offenders.

National Review’s Andrew McCarthy weighed in to say that Republicans like Hawley are making a big mistake, and a big deal out of nothing. McCarthy correctly points out that if Republicans are so concerned about this issue, they should make sentences on child predators tougher.

But McCarthy wasn’t arguing for tougher sentences, just making a rhetorical point. He went on to compare child sexual abuse imagery to drugs, and claimed the only justification for making these materials illegal is “market theory”—that the consumption of these illicit materials drives the abuse of children in the materials, even though the persons viewing the materials supposedly aren’t abusers themselves.

Says McCarthy: “If there were not simple possessors and consumers of illegal narcotics, there would not be a market that drives the much more serious drug-trafficking crimes. Yet no senators have suggested that illegal-drug possessors and users should be sentenced to harsh prison terms, much less mandatory minimums. And the Justice Department generally does not enforce simple possession statutes at all.”

McCarthy goes on to point out that 70 percent of judges, including many appointed by Republicans, think current federal mandatory minimums for child pornography are too harsh. According to McCarthy, this must mean these sentences probably are too harsh.

In jumps fellow National Reviewer Ramesh Ponnuru with an article that says our child porn laws “might” be too weak. Ponnuru correctly points out how wrong the Supreme Court was in 2002 to allow “virtual” child sexual abuse imagery where real children aren’t being abused, and then quickly argues that McCarthy’s view is wrong because these materials certainly harm “our moral ecology.”

The Conservative Old Guard Is Completely Useless

The real truth highlights both Jackson’s disregard for public safety and how ineffectual and lazy most of the conservative intellectual movement is. Ponnuru and McCarthy are full of theory and mumbo jumbo, but here are the facts.

The point of criminal justice is to keep the public safe. Murderers are put in prison not just to punish them, but to keep the innocent safe. The same should be true for child predators, especially since potential victims are literally the most innocent among us.

This is obvious to any normal person. It is precisely the reason Jackson is dangerous—because she clearly cares extremely little about public safety. Even her comment questioning the registering of sex offenders is egregious, because registering offenders isn’t that draconian. It only loosely keeps offenders away from areas where children congregate and allows concerned parents to see who’s in their neighborhoods that they should be concerned about.

The reason men trading in child rape images should get locked away is that the vast majority of these men (if not all) are active threats to the children around them. Many, probably at least half, are active or hands-on child abusers. It’s really that simple. So all the stuff about “drugs” or “moral ecology” is the same thing you step on in a farmyard.

Predators usually don’t just have a few images, or accidentally download something here or there (this was the Democrats’ alleged concern in Minnesota with tougher laws). Rather, they amass collections of hundreds or thousands of images and videos that come straight from the pit of hell. The horrifying facts can’t be repeated here, and reader discretion is advised, but a Minnesota government report (pages 34 and 35, or 40 and 41 in the PDF) details just what kind of materials these predators are collecting.

And who cares if many federal judges think a five-year minimum, which still comes with a lot of prosecutorial discretion (that gets explained using a state-level example here), is too harsh? Judges have helped ruin this country, and many are going straight to hell. Should we all go with them?

In addition, sentences for offenders are incredibly lax, especially at the state level. States like Minnesota have all but decriminalized possessing and trading in child abuse imagery and around 85 percent of offenders receive probation (although a recent law could marginally improve things). McCarthy mentioned drugs, which is interesting because drug criminals often receive harsher sentences than child predators do. You’d think the left would be all over that because there is a racial component here: many child predators are white and drug criminals are disproportionately not white.

How To Help Curtail Child Rape

It is important to realize that America at both the state and the federal level massively under-enforces these crimes relative to the size of the problem. Child predation is also a growing problem, coinciding with greater family breakdown, the rise of the internet, the opioid and meth crisis, and the prevalence of increasingly violent and degrading adult-on-adult online pornography.

Very few predators downloading images of abused children online are able to be pursued by law enforcement, because law enforcement in this area is so under-resourced. The primary vehicle to do so—the Internet Crimes Against Children task forces, or ICACs—are extremely underfunded at both the state and federal levels.

Meanwhile, the FBI is politically distracted and does relatively little to go after predators. Just look at its personnel who deal with these crimes relative to the agents it is adding to counter “domestic terrorism.” Federal prosecutors, too, have an incentive to pad their stats with easy drug and gun crimes, relative to the growing problem of human trafficking and child predation.

All these things can be fixed with money, tougher laws, and better incentives for prosecutors, but it takes leadership. Democrat Sen. Ron Wyden has sponsored a bill that, although imperfect, offers more resources. The GOP has notably been silent, as far as I can tell, on greater enforcement spending.

What America really needs is a War on Trafficking, and it would be great to see the senators pushing against Jackson launch such a measure. For example, funding for the ICACs should get massively increased. Then, break up the FBI, scatter the new components throughout the country, and create a specific, well-funded, anti-trafficking federal enforcement entity.

Back to Ponnuru and McCarthy: it is striking how little the right’s intellectual elite deals with common sense, and astonishing how disconnected many of these personalities are from how normal people think. Am I being hard on them? Yes. But these guys get paid to come up with solutions to our problems because they’ve researched the details.

Middle America might be lost on the conservative punditry, but Washington Republicans are not. Talking about theory and rhetoric all day is why Republicans win elections and accomplish nothing outside of corporate priorities, while Democrats push policy ideas that advance their long-term agenda. The right desperately needs to move away from that.