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Prop. 35 Would Throw The Book At Human Traffickers

Evening Edition

This election day, Californians will vote on Proposition 35. If approved, the proposition would impose stiffer penalties and fines for people convicted of human and sex trafficking. The proposition has broad-based support, but KPBS reporter Adrian Florido tells us there are also concerns the changes under Prop. 35 could have some unintended consequences.

Aired 10/22/12 on KPBS Midday Edition.

Adrian Florido - Reporter for KPBS News

Chris Kelly - Founder of Safer California Foundation

Dr. Ami C. Carpenter - School of Peace Studies University of San Diego


Aired 10/22/12 on KPBS News.

Proposition 35 would send sex traffickers to prison for up to a life term.

Stories like Jordanne's, who was forced into prostitution at age 18, are the ...
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Above: Stories like Jordanne's, who was forced into prostitution at age 18, are the reason behind Proposition 35, which would toughen penalties for human traffickers

— Jordanne was 18 the first time she was forced to sell herself for sex. She was drug addicted and living on the streets of northern California, and a friend introduced her to a man who said he could help her find work.

“So I went with him thinking it was just going to be some little chores or something,” she remembered recently, on the condition her last name be withheld. “It ended up with him being like, I need you to go onto the corner, you’re going to be making this quota for me, and you’re going to do it, or I’m going to hurt you.”

Now 23, she’s recovering at a San Diego home for victims of sex trafficking, but said she still fears the man who used threats and abuse to force her into prostitution for nearly six years.

“That’s how he kept me in line,” she said. "Making threats, beating me up, raping me. Where I was too scared to leave.”

Stories like Jordanne’s are the reason behind Proposition 35 on the November ballot.

It would impose tougher state prison terms on human traffickers – those who force people into sex work or other forced labor for their own financial gain.

If passed, the proposition would increase trafficking prison terms from 5-to-8-years to a minimum of 12 years in the case of labor trafficking, to a maximum life term in the case of sex trafficking of a minor. It would increase fines for convicted traffickers from $100,000 to up to $1.5 million --money that would go to fund programs that help trafficking victims recover.

It would also expand the definition of sex trafficking, to include the production of child pornography, and would require registered sex offenders to have their online identities tracked.

Prop. 35’s chief architect is a Bay-area victims’ advocate named Daphne Phung, and its main funder is former Facebook executive Chris Kelly. He’s donated nearly $2 million to the Yes on 35 campaign.

The proposition has broad support among law enforcement officials, Democrats and Republicans, and victims’ advocates across state -- people like Susan Munsey, director of Generate Hope, the victims’ home where Jordanne is recovering.

“It’s a heinous crime. It’s horrible what happens to the girls. It changes their lives in ways that are very difficult to heal from.”

FBI statistics place San Diego among the nation’s top sex-trafficking hubs.

“I think this initiative can move us in the other direction and really put some teeth into the laws,” Munsey said.

Brian Marvel, president of San Diego’s police union, says Prop. 35 would help victims because it will also require police officers to get training on how to identify sex trafficking victims.

Most people who have chimed in on Proposition 35 have applauded the initiative’s intent to protect victims of sex trafficking.

And while it has little organized opposition, it has also drawn criticism from some attorneys, victims’ advocates and even law enforcement officials who think the proposition, while well-intentioned, could have unintended consequences.

San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis has said she’s concerned the law could actually make it harder for prosecutors to convict human traffickers, and even be dangerous for victims.

In addition to the tougher penalties, Prop. 35 would no longer allow prosecutors to hold people criminally liable for prostitution if they were forced into it. But Dumanis’ office told KQED that the ability to prosecute prostitutes is an important way that law enforcement can get them off the streets and free from their pimps.

Others have raised concerns over whether tougher penalties will actually do anything to put a dent in sex trafficking, which they consider a much more complex problem.

“It’s based on a presumption that more arrests and stiffer penalties are going to decrease the levels of trafficking,” said Ami Carpenter, a University of San Diego professor and member of a commission that advises San Diego County on the problem of sex trafficking.

“What we’ve found in San Diego works is a comprehensive approach where you have law enforcement, but you also have victims services providers at the table. You have community members,” she said.

Others, including major newspapers like the Los Angeles Times, have opposed the proposition, saying existing penalties for human trafficking are sufficient. Federal law already provides for much stiffer sentences for human trafficking.

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | October 22, 2012 at 12:30 p.m. ― 4 years, 4 months ago

The Los Angeles Times opposes the proposition saying "existing penalties for human trafficking are sufficient."

The twisted minds at the LA Times consider 5 to 8 years for the unspeakable horrors of sex slavery to be sufficient?

I'm no fan of Doug Manchester, but perhaps he should buy the LA Times. Then dig a deep hole and bury it.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | October 22, 2012 at 1:10 p.m. ― 4 years, 4 months ago

Bonnie D. Never ceases to amaze me!

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Avatar for user 'Hope'

Hope | October 22, 2012 at 1:31 p.m. ― 4 years, 4 months ago

Sex trafficking, particularly of children, is flourishing in California because the profits are huge and the laws are weak, so traffickers operate with little risk. Gangs are getting involved because it is less risky and more profitable for them to sell children than to sell drugs. Law enforcement organizations, prosecutors, and child advocacy groups throughout the state have endorsed Prop 35. This is because Prop 35 will increase the penalties and close the many legal loopholes that have spared traffickers from being convicted. These are really dangerous people who belong off the streets, off the Internet, and away from our children. The costs that result from Prop 35 will be negligible, especially when viewed long term. The fines will generate new funds to pay for the vital services necessary to help survivors recover, build new lives, and become contributing members of the community. And law enforcement, the criminal justice system, and social services will see savings through vast reductions in future arrests and broken lives. By voting “Yes” on Prop 35, California citizens will be making a statement that the brutality of human trafficking will not be tolerated in our state.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | October 22, 2012 at 2:07 p.m. ― 4 years, 4 months ago

There is one hypocrisy about this, we define teens as "children" in cases such as this but when they commit the crimes we don't hesitate for a nano second to try them as "adults."

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | October 22, 2012 at 3 p.m. ― 4 years, 4 months ago

I'm skeptical and say "read the fine print".

This is where ballot propositions become dangerous.

You put a title on something claiming harsher punishment for sex offenders, human traffickers etc., and of course you get it passed because most people just read the title or the brief description of what the author's "claim" it will do.

But this isn't a;ways what they end up doing.

Case in point - "Jessica's Law".

Written by political hacks exploiting the name of a dead girl, they got it passed overwhelmingly because it tugs at a hot button issue and pulls emotional strings.

But this poorly written law has been embroiled in endless legal challenges the tax payers are paying for, and law enforcement admits it is causing thousands of sex offenders to go underground making them harder to track.

This knee-jerk reaction to simply vote for anything because it has a nice title is very dangerous.

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Avatar for user 'philosopher3000'

philosopher3000 | October 22, 2012 at 3:16 p.m. ― 4 years, 4 months ago

KPBS just posted this on their facebook page!!!

"With election day just around the corner, we wanted to give you a friendly reminder that our community guidelines ask you to refrain from posting political solicitations on our Facebook wall. Thanks!"

WTF - are you telling me Corporations can buy "underwriting statements" (ADVERTISING) on Public Media, But citizens in the public can't vent their opinion on the Public Radio facebook page! Are you NUTS! (oops was that a political statement?)

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Avatar for user 'SamWagner'

SamWagner | October 29, 2012 at 1:52 p.m. ― 4 years, 4 months ago

Regarding “Prop. 35 Would Throw The Book At Human Traffickers” (KPBS, Oct. 22):
It’s impossible for me to understand why anyone wouldn’t want to get sex offenders off our streets. San Diego has one of the largest sex-trafficking populations in the country and its astonishing to me that nothing has been done to stop this until prop 35 was proposed in legislation. Prop 35 will educate law enforcement in the ability to identify common signs of pimps who use children and women to make money through sex trafficking. With the increased knowledge in our police force we can help save the lives of our children and women who are victims of sex-trafficking. Harsher punishments and increased prison terms for sex-traffickers who victimize children will help provide a feeling of security not only for the victims, but for the community. Knowing that pimps are being held responsible for their crimes by enforcing appropriate consequence will help me sleep safer at night.
We need to stop punishing the victims who were scared and forced into prostitution and punish the pimps who force women and children to sell themselves so the pimp can make a paycheck. Ending sex-trafficking starts by getting to the source of the problem, which is the pimps. If we stop the pimps; we stop sex-trafficking. I’m happy to know that we have finally recognized the flaw in our previous court system and are working to change that by sentencing the pimps to longer prison terms, larger fines, and requiring them to register as a sex-offenders. Do your part and vote NO on prop 35 to save our children from sexual exploitation!

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | October 29, 2012 at 7:36 p.m. ― 4 years, 4 months ago

Good post Duck. I for one am VERY skeptical of "after-the-horse-is-out-of-the barn," rally around a dead victim to legislate poorly.

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