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Effects of Organizational and Community Context on Local Prosecution of Computer Child Pornography Cases

NCJ Number
Criminal Justice Studies: A Critical Journal of Crime, Law and Society Volume: 20 Issue: 4 Dated: December 2007 Pages: 391-405
Timothy Buzzell
Date Published
December 2007
15 pages
This study examined the factors that affected the likelihood of a prosecutor taking up computer-based child pornography offenses.
The study found that the likelihood of prosecution for this type of computer crime increased when budgets existed for experts, for using alternatives to prosecution, and for working in districts with higher crime rates and higher levels of income; context mattered to prosecution of child pornography cases. The analysis is presented in three parts. First, the background role of the computer in the production and distribution of child pornography is reported. This is followed by a review of research on the nature of prosecutors’ work and a review of research on the prosecution of child pornography cases. Second the analysis outlines the research design used to study factors hypothesized to be associated with prosecution of online child pornography cases in State district court. Third, the paper discusses the findings with particular attention to the implications of the results for understanding the social control of child pornography and future theorizing about the prosecution of computer crime. The findings advance the argument that prosecutorial activity occurs within a broader organizational reality that deserves consideration in models of prosecutorial activity. Specifically, the study of 771 computer child pornography cases prosecuted in 2001 showed direct effects from higher budgets for use of experts, combined with an office culture that was willing to use alternatives to prosecution in contrast to an all or nothing culture about conviction. In addition, evidence showed that prosecutors were more likely to pursue cases of computer child pornography in districts characterized by higher violent crime rates and higher per capital income. Given the nature of computer forensics and the need to secure evidence for child pornography cases using a computer, offices that have resources to utilize experts are more likely to prosecute computer child pornography. The study utilizes results from the 2001 National Survey of Prosecutors (NSP). Tables, references