Sunday, August 17, 2008

US Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia

Justin Murray writes from DC:

The Equal Justice Foundation enabled me to work with the U.S. Attorney's Office to help prosecute bad guys. "Bad guys," you might ask? "Isn't that a little childish and simplistic?" Actually, they were by and large a bad lot, and mostly guys to boot. I worked in the Federal Major Crimes section, which handles many different kinds of crime. But I want to focus on one category of crimes that our office thankfully makes a high priority: sexual exploitation of children.

A tragic fact is that the vast majority of sex crimes against children never get reported. The children know that something wrong has happened to them, but they cannot process the meaning of the event until they are older; even then, memories are often repressed; and the child may view the event partially as his/her own fault, shrouding the event further in shame and silence.

The explosion of internet usage and web-based pornography has created vast new opportunities for child predators, such as pedophile chat and e-mail groups to exchange child erotica and technological know-how, and the stalking and solicitation of children in chat rooms and social groups like MySpace.

These very same developments have also created opportunities for law enforcement. Previously, child sex crimes were generally state crimes and relied upon reporting of the crime by the child victim. But the vast interstate flow of child pornography and internet solicitation has constitutionally enabled Congress to pass federal laws, often with (much needed) mandatory minimum penalties. Rather than waiting for the next child victim, undercover officers can enter chat sessions, posing as fellow pedophiles or as teenagers, to identify and lock down would-be child predators. It was a joy to spend the summer working with the U.S. Attorney's Office to prosecute these "bad guys" before they irreparably harm a child.

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