Updated Mar 22, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Jackson rejects GOP claims she's lenient on child sex offenders

Picture of Ketanji Brown Jackson
Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Ketanji Brown Jackson on Tuesday pushed back against misleading Republican critiques that she has been soft on sentencing child pornography offenders.

Driving the news: On the second day of her Senate confirmation hearings, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) asked Jackson to address claims, mainly driven by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), that she has been lenient in sentencing child sex offenders. Jackson responded: "Nothing could be further from the truth."

What she's saying: Jackson said that she makes sure, as a judge, to show the victims' perspectives when addressing offenders: "When I am dealing with something like this, it is important to me to make sure that the children's perspectives, the children's voices, are represented in my sentencing."

  • She tells offenders "about the adults who are former child sex abuse victims [who] tell me that they will never have a normal adult relationship because of this abuse. I tell them about the ones who say, 'I went into prostitution, I fell into drugs because I was trying to suppress the hurt that was done to me as an as an infant.'"
"When I look in the eyes of a defendant who's weeping because I'm giving him a significant sentence, what I say to him is do you know that there is someone who has written to me and she has told me that she has developed agoraphobia — she cannot leave her house — because she thinks that everyone she meets will have seen her, will have seen her pictures on the internet, they're out there forever, at the most vulnerable time of her life and so she's paralyzed."
— Ketanji Brown Jackson.

The big picture: Hawley said on Twitter that Jackson "has a pattern of letting child porn offenders off the hook for their appalling crimes, both as a judge and as a policymaker."

  • "The picture that Hawley provides is a selective one that lacks significant context," The Washington Post wrote in fact-checking the GOP senator's references to sentencing rulings as well as Jackson's work as a member of the U.S. Sentencing Commission.
  • Jackson brought up existing statutes on the matter, saying that they don't necessarily call for "the highest possible penalty," but actually instruct to "look at various aspects of this offense and impose a sentence that is ‘sufficient but not greater than necessary’ to promote the purposes of punishment."
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