Last week, as Elizabeth Nolan Brown noted here, best-selling novelist John Grisham got into hot water by suggesting there might be such a thing as an excessively long sentence for someone convicted of possessing child pornography. In a Time essay that went up today, I explain why Grisham was right. Here is how the piece starts:
Last week John Grisham, the best-selling author of legal thrillers, triggered a storm of online criticism by arguing in an interview with The Telegraph that criminal penalties for possessing child pornography are unreasonably harsh. Grisham, who has since apologized, spoke rather loosely, overstating the extent to which honest mistakes account for child porn convictions and the extent to which those convictions expand the prison population.
But he was right on two important points: People who download child pornography are not necessarily child molesters, and whatever harm they cause by looking at forbidden pictures does not justify the penalties they often receive.