“Ruining kids to save them”

Radley Balko on the prosecuting teens for sexting.

There have now been several cases across the country where young people who either pose for, snap, or forward provocative or nude photos of other minors are being charged or threatened with felony child pornography. In 2007, a state appeals court in Florida upheld charges of “directing or promoting a photograph featuring the sexual conduct of a child” and possession of child pornography charges against a 17-year-old boy and a 16-year-old girl for forwarding explicit photos of themselves having sex from her computer to his email address. The sex wasn’t illegal. But the photos were. Incredibly, Judge James Wolf wrote in the majority opinion that “Mere production of these videos or pictures may…result in psychological trauma to the teenagers involved. Further, if these pictures are ultimately released, future damage may be done to these minors’ careers or personal lives.”The message to minors: These photos can ruin your lives, kids. And just to prove it, we’re going to ruin your lives.

These cases are the natural culmination of two trends. The first is the continuing view among politicians that there’s no punishment too severe for sex offenders. Moreover, to show how serious we are about sex offenders, we should broaden the class of people we classify under the label. And there needn’t be any actual victims.

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