The Governor has signed into law legislation that deems persons under the age of 18 who might previously have been charged with criminal prostitution as victims of sex trafficking, eligible for treatment rather than prosecution.
“The law is supposed to protect vulnerable children from adult abuse, yet we brand kids enmeshed in sex-for-pay with a scarlet ‘P’ and leave them subject to shame and prosecution,” said State Senator Holly J. Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), who introduced SB 1322. “This is our opportunity to do what we say is right in cases of sex trafficking: stop the exploiters and help the exploited.”
When it comes to the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC), the victims are criminalized under California law, often sent to juvenile hall and tagged with a rap sheet for prostitution.
SB 1322 decriminalizes prostitution charges for minors. It requires that law enforcement continue to immediately report allegations of commercial sexual exploitation involving juveniles to agencies charged with protecting and counseling them. Courts would still be responsible for overseeing the care that trafficked youth receive while they remain underage, in the absence of responsible parents or guardians.
Holly J. Mitchell has thus far authored four bills that address the growing problem of illegal trafficking of juveniles in California (SB 955, SB 1165, SB 1388 and SB 1322), all of which have been signed into law.