HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Protecting children from sexual exploitation is the goal of a new bill that would increase penalties for those convicted of creating or possessing child pornography.
Senate Bill 1075 is the first bill state Sen. Dave Arnold (R) would introduce following his predecessor Mike Folmer’s guilty plea of possessing child porn.
Arnold says the bill is not in direct response to Folmer but due to an issue that needs to be addressed. From politicians to military members and even teachers, cases of child pornography keep popping up in the Midstate.
“There are too many people that don’t view child pornography as being as serious of a crime in my mind it is and as it should be,” Arnold said.
The bill would increase penalties for those convicted of child pornography in cases when the victim is less than six years old or prepubescent.
“It can sometimes be difficult to tell a child’s age, but by going with this under six, and/or prepubescent, I think our prosecutors are covered and they should be good to take their cases to court,” Arnold said.
Arnold’s legislation would increase felony charges by one degree, potentially increasing prison time by a few years.
“Whether it’s looking at it, owning it, distributing it, producing it, there’s harm being done to the child,” said Jim Willshier, chief public affairs officer for the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape.
Willshier supports stricter penalties and says it’s also an important conversation starter for families about prevention and education.
“We encourage families to have this conversation all the time about online safety and child safety,” Willshier said.
“There are children that are being sexually abused somewhere by somebody and the people that buy the videos, obtain the videos, create that market for the videos,” Arnold said.
The bill also directs the Pennsylvanian Commission on Sentencing to develop guidelines for a sentence enhancement when the victim is known to the offender.
The language of the bill is being finalized and is expected to be released next week.
The legislature reconvenes on March 16.