Roost: Proposition 35 falls short

By Amy Roost

Who could be in favor human trafficking? I’m certainly not. On that, Dick and I agree. However, while Proposition 35 is well intentioned, it is not the best way to go about remedying this despicable crime.

Amy Roost

First, the obvious. Human trafficking, because it most often involves the crossing of state and/or international borders, is usually a federal offense. Thus, if passed, Proposition 35 would mean throwing state tax dollars at a crime that is already being addressed — applying stiffer sentences — with our federal tax dollar.

Second, the initiative has broad and vague wording. Some prosecutors have expressed concern that this will lead to convictions being thrown out by the courts.

Third, the proposition would make commercial prostitution inadmissible evidence in the prosecution of traffickers. This provision could lead to constitutional challenges because the sex trafficker would in effect be denied a fair trial if evidence were thrown out prior to trial.

Fourth, the measure actually threatens innocent people by broadening the definition of pimping: anyone receiving financial support from consensual prostitution among adults, including a sex worker’s children or spouse, could be prosecuted as a human trafficker. If convicted, they would have to register as a sex offender for life.

Fifth, I’m opposed in principle to mandatory sentencing — for any crime. Why even have judges if all the sentencing is done by default? Mandatory sentencing is the sweetheart of corporate America because it leads to an even higher incarceration rate, thus is the easiest way to justify building more private prisons.

Sixth, Gov. Brown recently signed a series of bills aimed at cracking down on human trafficking in California. One measure allows courts to “seize and freeze” a defendant’s assets during prosecution. Another measure expands the list of assets subject to forfeiture upon a human trafficking conviction. A third piece of signed legislation requires certain businesses, including bars, strip clubs and truck stops, to post notices advertising telephone tip lines for members of the public and victims of human trafficking. Partial credit for these laws goes to the authors of Proposition 35 for shining a spotlight on the issue of human trafficking and getting the state Legislature to move off its duff.

Finally, Proposition 35 as well as the bills passed in Sacramento, justifiably address the symptoms of human trafficking, however, ignore the causes.

It is estimated that over one million women in the United States have been lured into full-time prostitution — most for economic reasons. When roughly one in every six American men has been a willing client of a prostitute, prostitution is — rightly or wrongly — the easiest way for a woman to make a quick buck in this country.

Likewise, victims of human trafficking are lured into the sex trade or slave-like conditions in sweatshops or janitorial service or farms in an attempt to escape poverty, political upheaval and violence in their home countries. Prostitution is the golden ticket that gets them to the “land of opportunity.” Many trafficking victims actively resist rescue because they don’t want to be returned to the hellish conditions from which they came. If we really want to help victims of sex trafficking, then we should make it easier for them to obtain a U.S. visa once they are here rather than deporting them back to the conditions they were so desperate to escape. An even more proactive approach would be to direct more foreign aid to the most impoverished nations around the globe. However, I realize this is pie-in-the-sky thinking. Lobbyists for the defense industry would never allow for it.

I agree with Dick that human traffickers should be held accountable for their crimes, but if society is to go beyond Band Aid reforms, and enact meaningful, long-lasting policies that actually protect the potential victims human trafficking to begin with, we must address the root cause of selling one’s body for money — inequality. This includes not only gender inequality but nation-state inequality.

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Posted by Staff on Oct 3 2012. Filed under Columnists. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

7 Comments for “Roost: Proposition 35 falls short”

  1. Storm

    I vote YES on 35 because the increase in legal fines will go directly to victim services. Need a reference? Here's a section from the actual initiative.

    Sec 236.4 (d): Every fine imposed and collected pursuant to Section 236.1 and this section shall be deposited in the Victim-Witness Assistance Fund, to be administered by the California Emergency Management Agency (Cal EMA), to fund grants for services for victims of human trafficking. Seventy percent of the fines collected and deposited shall be granted to public agencies and nonprofit corporations that provide shelter, counseling, or other direct services for trafficked victims. Thirty percent of the fines collected and deposited shall be granted to law enforcement and prosecution agencies in the jurisdiction in which the charges were filed to fund human trafficking prevention, witness protection, and rescue operations.

  2. Amy Roost

    Storm, a few points. 1) The governor has already signed a bill that would seize the assets of drug traffickers. 2) most of those assets are hidden off shore; 3) 30% of the fines go to law enforcement agencies, not victim services. Many of these agencies have expressed skepticism that the fines would be sufficient to cover the administrative costs required by new law. California's sex registry has more than 90,000 names. Police and sheriff's departments are unable to keep track of all the data currently required. Proposition 35 would mandate that they capture online screen names for tens of thousand of registrants. Depending on how they use the Internet, registrants targeted could have dozens of screen names.

    • Yes on 35

      Amy, your'e way off base on this one. And I guarantee it will pass.

      • Amy Roost

        Actually, I hope you're right and I'm wrong. I hope Prop 35 does what it intends to do. But I still can't defend laws with mandatory sentencing and that cast such a wide dragnet that family members would be required to register as sex offenders. And I can't understand why we need to spend the tax dollars it given all the recent legislation signed into law and the federal laws which are actually stricter.

  3. Hope

    There are so few traffickers in California prisons today 1) because the laws are so weak and 2) because of the many legal loop holes that have spared these dangerous criminals from prosecution. Prop 35 gives prosecutors, police and advocates the tools they need to put traffickers away for a significantly long time and protect the victims from the traffickers and from unfair treatment in the courts. When Prop 35 passes, California will have the best human trafficking law in the country and we will have the legal clout necessary to protect our children. With 70% of fines going to victim's services, survivors will also have the shelter, counseling and services they need to recover and rebuild their lives.

  4. lizz

    It is awful that in California, traffickers can only serve a maximum of 8 years, which does not allow victims to recover from being ENSLAVED. Contrary to belief, many of these victims are US citizens and are trafficked in state, and therefore the traffickers cannot be prosecuted under federal laws.

    Prop 35 doesn't have vague language. In fact, Prop 35 contains almost identical language to the federal human trafficking law which has been successfully used to try human traffickers without infringing on the rights of others. Community leaders, non profits, and police associations have all endorsed Proposition 35. Vote to fight human trafficking in California. Vote Yes on 35!

  5. yesen35

    I am voting Yes on Prop 35. 1) Human trafficking cases happen locally, I've seen news articles of cases being handled at the county and state level. Prop 35 will better equip prosecutors to convict criminals, and protect victims. 2) The definition in the initiative is clear, and reflects the federal definition. 3) There needs to be criminal intent proven in order to prosecute a crime — the argument that anyone in association could be charged as a human trafficker, is a vague and unclear argument.

    Prop 35 will make our state law the TOUGHEST against human trafficking in the nation — Yes on 35!

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