Kentucky Cracks Down on Child Porn

Kat Khan
LOUISVILLE – Sparked by the recent crackdown against online child pornography, Kentucky will attempt to follow federal suit as it prepares to discuss a state law that would include making child pornography possession a felony.

Kentucky is among only a handful of states where possessing child pornography is currently a misdemeanor, with a maximum penalty of one year in prison.

Due to the state’s reputation for leniency, Kentucky police reportedly began bypassing state courts to allow federal prosecutors handle child pornography crimes after Congress passed the PROTECT Act, 2003 legislation that increased federal penalties for child pornography offenders, including a mandatory five-year sentence for receiving or distributing such content through the Internet.

But Kentucky Lt. Gov. Steve Pence is pushing for legislation that would increase state penalties relating to child exploitation, including making possession of child pornography a felony and requiring offenders to be placed on the state's sex-offender registry.

Pence's proposals would be considered by the 2006 Kentucky General Assembly, which convenes in January.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which operates a clearinghouse for child pornography complaints in partnership with federal agencies, has received 325,000 reports of child pornography on the Internet since 1998, with numbers showing a steady increase each year.

"Frankly, policy makers are trying to send a message that this is a problem that is out of control and we need a marker down," NCMEC President Ernie Allen said. "I have a hard time feeling sorry for anyone who distributed large quantities of child pornography.”

Nationally, federal prosecutors have also obtained more than 1,066 convictions on child pornography charges in federal courts during this fiscal year, a threefold increase from the past seven years, according to U.S. Attorneys.

Those arrested are usually involved with child pornography through trade, purchase, selling and arranging meetings with undercover officers posing as children in chat rooms and emails, officials said.