Washington parole board says 'depiction-only' child exploitation offenders should not be imprisoned

A 2022 SOPB report argued that “depiction-only” offenders should be treated separately then “contact sexual” offenders.

Ari Hoffman Seattle WA
Washington state officials recommended that the Legislature consider treatment for people convicted of possessing or viewing child pornography rather than imprisonment.

According to The Center Square, the state's embattled Sex Offender Policy Board (SOPB) made the recommendations in a report last year to the House Public Safety Committee regarding “…treatment alternatives for certain sex offenses; lifetime supervision; failure to register; washouts; and system improvements.”

The Sexual Exploitation of Children Act, which the Legislature passed in 1984, created new criminal offenses including possessing and dealing in child pornography as well as bringing child pornography into the state.

Possessing child pornography was considered a non-sex offense before 2006 but then it was reclassified as a sex offense and a level 6 class B felony.

According to the 2022 SOPB report, the average incarceration length for a person convicted of possession in 2019 was almost four years. 

A 2022 SOPB report argued that “depiction-only” offenders should be treated separately than “contact sexual” offenders. “Depiction-only offenders were more likely than contact offenders to be better educated and employed at the time of their arrest. In addition, depiction-only offenders were less likely to have a history of criminal behavior or substance abuse than contact sexual offenders. During a follow-up period of 4.8 years, 3% of the 428 depiction-only offenders and 5.7% of the 210 contact sexual offenders were arrested for a contact sexual offense.”

The report added, “…individuals whose behavior is limited to viewing, possessing, duplicating, disseminating, or exchanging illegal internet depictions are at low-risk of reoffending. Consequently, treatment in the community can be done at a low risk to the community. We believe other individuals convicted of a sex offense who are assessed as low-risk to re-offend are good candidates to be considered for a sentencing alternative that minimizes the use of incarceration and focuses on treatment in the community.”

That recommendation was unanimously approved by the SOPB.

Earlier this year, the board came under fire following The Post Millennial revealing that members were working to roll back restrictions on sex offenders. Though officials rushed to deny the claim, documents revealed that the officials were not only working on rolling back the restrictions but lying when they tried to deny it.

One county even called out officials for attempting to remove a requirement for public notice and public comment before permitting less restrictive facilities for violent sex offenders to be placed in neighborhoods.
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