In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, author John Grisham said that old men who look at child pornography “do not deserve harsh prison sentences.”

Grisham made it clear that he believes in tough sentences for people who physically harm children. He said that he has “no sympathy for real pedophiles – God please lock those people up.”

However, he distinguished between men who touch and men who simply look, noting that “many of these guys do not deserve harsh prison sentences.”

“We have prisons now filled with guys my age, 60-year-old white men in prison who’ve never harmed anybody, would never touch a child, but they got online one night and started surfing around, probably had too much to drink or whatever,” Grisham said.  “They haven’t hurt anybody, ok? They deserve some type of punishment, whatever. But ten years in prison?”

He elaborated with the following story:

A friend of mine, ten years ago, was drinking. His drinking was out of control. And he went to a website—it was labeled, 16-year-old wannabe hookers, or something, some stupid website. And it said, 16-year-old girls. So he went there. Downloaded some stuff. It was 16-year-old girls who looked 30. You know, they were all dressed up and whatever. He shouldn’t have done it, it was stupid. But it wasn’t 10-year-old boys and he didn’t touch anything. And golly, a week later there was a knock on the door. FBI. And it was a sting set up by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to catch people—sex offenders. And he went to prison for three years.

Grisham also decried the fact that men who peruse child porn websites are put in the same prison with those who assault children.

“There’s so many of them now, so many sex offenders—that’s what they’re called—that they put them in the same prison, like they’re a bunch of perverts or something,” he said.

John Grisham is an American lawyer and author who is best known for his legal thrillers.

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