The state of California has shockingly high rates of human trafficking involving minors, with 293 reported cases in 2015 and 200 already reported in 2016. These minors are often forced into prostitution.
California lawmakers are making an effort to stop sex trafficking – but the unintended consequences will doom hundreds of children.
“Let’s say collectively there is no such thing as a child prostitute because there is no such thing as a child prostitute,” says Democratic assemblyman Mark Stone.
Two bills that seek to decriminalize child prostitution – SB 823 and SB 1322 – were delivered to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk this week. SB 823 will allow “a person arrested or convicted of a nonviolent crime while he or she was a human trafficking victim to apply to the court to vacate the conviction and seal and destroy records of arrest.”
“All we are doing in perpetuating current law is saying, ‘You are not the victim, you are the criminal,'” argues Stone. But saying something isn’t true doesn’t make it false, and these bills are nothing more than California’s way of closing its eyes to a series problem.
Law enforcement groups point out that decriminalizing this disgusting practice would give victims no motivation to testify against their pimps and would take away the ability for police officers and social services to help them. As SB 1322 states, police would only be able to take victims into temporary custody if “leaving them unattended would pose an immediate threat to their health or safety.”
Jane Creighton, the coordinator of the human-trafficking unit at the office of the LA County district attorney, argues that police must be able to apprehend these individuals so that they can receive proper treatment. Most victims are “young, vulnerable women, tied to their abusers through complicated psychological and emotional bonds,” and they are likely to resist help.
“If they [law enforcement] can’t keep a victim in a facility long enough for a provider to reach that child with services, then we undermine the efforts of a number of great community-based organizations that are having tremendous success in servicing victims of human trafficking,” explains Sean Hoffman, the director of legislation for the California District Attorneys Association.
Even worse, these bills could “promote criminal conduct by creating an incentive for traffickers to enlist their victims to commit crimes,” says Hoffman, with traffickers knowing “full well that the people they press into service will not be held responsible for their actions.”
SB 1322 and SB 823 represent a liberal agenda with a complete absence of understanding when it comes to the unintended but likely consequences that could make life even worse for these young girls. Instead of passing bills that work in theory, but not in reality, California lawmakers should listen to the advice of the professionals and authorities who work with these unlucky minors.
Editor’s note: This is one of those stories that makes me want to rip my hair out. They don’t understand the power of drugs and pimps on an adolescent youth. If this passes it will doom hundreds of children to a horrible life, because the services designed to help them will not be able to.