Suggestion 3

Part: 
Four
Chapter: 
7

Community action organizations can gather information about pornography in their community.

The mainstay of any effective advocacy process is complete information. Citizen action groups must be informed as to which local, state and federal officials are responsible for the enforcement of obscenity laws. These groups must also determine the nature and extent of the pornography problem in their community and have a working knowledge of the laws governing this material.

There are basically three law enforcement tiers in each of the federal, state and local government systems. The first is the investigative tier. At the state and local level, the police or other law enforcement agency investigates alleged violations of the law. At the federal level, the investigative agencies which have jurisdiction over obscenity violations include: the Federal Bureau of Investigation (interstate transportation of obscene material), the Postal Inspection Service (illegal use of the mail to send obscene material), and the United States Customs Service (importation of obscene material).

The second tier involves the prosecutorial function. In some jurisdictions the local prosecutor may bring criminal actions as well as civil suits[1634] on behalf of the citizens they represent, against those individuals and corporations who have allegedly violated the law.[1635]

There are prosecutors at the local and state levels who are responsible for enforcing local and state ordinances and statutes respectively. There are also prosecutors at the federal level which are part of the United States Department of justice and are located throughout the nation in regional United States Attorneys Offices. There are ninety-four such offices in the United States.

The third tier is the judiciary. The judicial branch is responsible for offering a forum for the resolution of civil disputes and criminal allegations. The judge is also responsible for sentencing those convicted of criminal offenses. There are judges at each level of government who are responsible for interpreting and upholding the laws in their jurisdiction.

It is important to note that the same illegal act may in some instances give rise to both civil and criminal actions. Moreover, some offenses may be actionable under local, state and federal law. It is equally important to remember that many of the officials responsible for law enforcement are elected or appointed for a term of years. These individuals are sensitive to citizen input, but in the final analysis are obligated to base their prosecutorial decision on their interpretation of the law.

With this law enforcement structure in mind, there are four basic steps citizens should follow in gathering information on pornography in their community.

The first step in this information gathering process is to review local, state and federal obscenity and pornography-related laws. Second, citizens should also familiarize themselves with the pertinent legal decisions governing the control of obscene material. It is important to understand what is not obscene as well as what is obscene. In order to develop this understanding citizens are encouraged to review state and federal case law which discusses materials which have been found obscene as well as cases where sexually explicit materials have been found to be constitutionally protected. Citizens are also encouraged to consult with attorneys or other knowledgeable persons on the laws in this area.

Third, concerned citizens should survey pornography producers, distributors, retailers and the actual materials available in the market place. The following is a breakdown of the types of media and establishments that often offer pornographic material in most communities in the United States. The series of questions listed below each heading should facilitate a thorough survey of these establishments and media.

A. Establishments and Media Survey Questions

  1. "Adults Only"[1636] Pornographic Theaters
    1. How many pornographic theaters are there in the community? Where are they located?
    2. What movies are shown?
    3. Are sexually explicit advertisements in full public view?
    4. Are any of the theaters of the drive-in type?
    5. What precautions, if any, are taken to prevent minors from gaining access to these establishments?
  2. "Adults Only" Pornographic Outlets
    1. How many pornographic outlets are there in the community and where are they located?
    2. What materials are sold? Magazines? Paperbacks? Sexual devices? Videos? Films?
    3. Are there peep show booths where movies are shown?
    4. Are there live peep shows?
    5. Is sexual activity taking place in these establishments?
    6. Are these pornographic outlets serving as a solicitation point for prostitution?
    7. Are these pornographic outlets adequately inspected for public health violations?
  3. Retail Magazine Outlets
    1. How many retail magazine outlets in the community offer pornographic material?
    2. Where are they located?
    3. What magazines and paperbacks do they stock?
    4. Are they displayed on the counter?
    5. Behind the counter?
    6. In racks with general magazines?
    7. In blinder racks?
    8. What precautions, if any, are taken to keep minors from being exposed to these materials?
  4. Video Tape Cassette Retailers
    1. How many of the video tape cassette stores, and convenience stores selling and renting videos in the community, stock sexually explicit or sexually violent videos?
    2. Where are the sexually explicit or sexually violent videos displayed?
    3. What precautions, if any, are taken to keep minors from purchasing, renting and being exposed to these videos?
  5. Cable, Satellite and Over-the-Air Subscription Television
    1. Is there a cable franchise or over-the-air subscription service in your community?
    2. Are sexually explicit or obscene programs being distributed? When?
    3. What precautions, if any, are taken to keep minors from being exposed to these services?
  6. Dial-A-Porn
    1. Does a telephone company in your community have a Dial-A-Porn service available through its MANS Announcement Network Service (976 prefix)?
    2. What is the nature of this service?
    3. Are there pre-recorded sexually explicit conversations?
    4. Are there live telephone conversations?
    5. Are children in the community calling this service?
    6. How are the Dial-A-Porn services advertised and are these advertisements directed to the attention of minors?
    7. What precautions, if any, are being taken to shield minors from exposures to Dial-A-Porn?
  7. Hotels
    1. How many hotels in the community advertise and provide sexually explicit or sexually violent movies for their guests?
    2. Where are these hotels located?
    3. What precautions, if any, are taken to preclude minors from viewing these movies?
    4. Are these hotels used for prostitution or other related crimes?
  8. Computer Pornography
    1. Are pornographic computer services available in your community?
    2. What is the nature of the service?
    3. Are conversations pre-programmed?
    4. Are conversations live?
    5. Are children in the community using this service?
    6. What precautions, if any, are being taken to keep minors from gaining access to this system?

B. Officials

Concerned citizens should also acquaint themselves with the names of the elected and appointed officials responsible for undertaking enforcement action against obscenity. At the local level, these officials include the mayor, city council members, county prosecutor, zoning officials and the chief of police. In the case of a military community, citizens should contact the Base Commander to inform him of the pornography problem present in the community and the distribution of material on the military base.

The community action leaders may also contact the state attorney general, state legislators, public health officials and the governor, if local efforts prove unsuccessful.

In addition, if inadequate federal enforcement is a matter of concern, citizen action groups should consider contacting such federal officials and agencies as Members of Congress, United States Senators, the Department of justice through its United States Attorneys, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Postal Inspection Service and the United States Customs Service.

Notes

  1. Civil laws include nuisance laws and may include zoning.
  2. In some jurisdictions a civil action brought on behalf of the community is done through the city attorney's office, in other jurisdictions the civil action is purely private in nature.
  3. The term "Adults Only" is meant only to describe the nature of the material presented and not necessarily the age of the patrons.