In September of 2016, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Senate Bill 1322, for the protection of underage sex trafficking victims. Previously, minors found to be engaging in the act of solicitation for acts of sex, were subject to laws prohibiting such acts. Now, under SB 1322, minors who have fallen subject to predators who profit from child prostitution, cannot be charged for a crime, NBC News reports. Instead, they will be considered victims who will be placed into safe environments by the Department of Social Services, rather than jails or back on the streets.
“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 Sen. Holly Mitchell, who introduced SB 1322.
It will probably come as little surprise that there are a number of lawmakers who are opposed to the new law. Some who are claiming that SB 1322 will actually have the opposite effect, encouraging juvenile prostitution, according to the article. California Assemblyman Travis Allen calls SB 1322 “terribly destructive legislation.”
“So teenage girls (and boys) in California will soon be free to have sex in exchange for money without fear of arrest or prosecution,” Allen wrote in an op-ed.
While Allen is correct that the new law “bars law enforcement from arresting sex workers who are under the age of 18 for soliciting or engaging in prostitution, or loitering with the intent to do so,” supporters of the bill claim that it was necessary to prevent minors from being held responsible for the situation they find themselves.
Both district attorneys and law enforcement officials are leery of SB 1322, the article reports. And there are concerns about there not being enough juvenile outreach resources available to meet the demand that the legislation could produce.