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Should Human Traffickers Face Tougher Penalties?

San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe supports the 'Stop Human Trafficking' measure on the Nov. 6, 2012 ballot.

Slated for the November 2012 ballot, Proposition 35 is an initiative intended to fight back against human trafficking and the sexual exploitation of women and children in the state.

San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffed has endorsed Proposition 35.

“While [human trafficking] isn’t an epidemic in San Mateo County, other counties like San Francisco and Alameda face this problem,” Wagstaffe said. “This initiative will elevate the punishment to the level it deserves.” 

Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen also strongly endorsed the measure, saying, “We need Prop. 35 in California, an initiative that helps district attorneys like myself and law enforcement fight human trafficking and sexual exploitation in our state. Santa Clara County is leading the way locally in fighting these crimes, but we need the tougher penalties that Prop 35 puts in place to get human traffickers off the streets and away from preying on women and children on the  Internet.”   

Rosen joins district attorneys Jan Scully (Sacramento County), Dean Flippo (Monterey County), Nancy O’Malley (Alameda County), Michael Ramos (San Bernardino County), Lisa S. Green (Kern County), and Birgit Fladager (Stanislaus County) in supporting Proposition 35. Proposition 35 has been endorsed by organizations that provide services to and advocate for victims of human trafficking.

Three cities in California – San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego – are recognized by the FBI as high-intensity child sex trafficking areas, according to the proposition's proponents.       

Proposition 35, a partnership of California Against Slavery and the Safer California Foundation, would:

  • Increase prison terms for human traffickers.
  • Require convicted sex traffickers to register as sex offenders.
  • Require all registered sex offenders to disclose their Internet accounts.
  • Require criminal fines from convicted human traffickers to pay for services to help victims.

Opponents include the Erotic Service Provider Legal, Educational and Research Project (ESPLERP), who say Proposition 35, as written, would increase the risks to trafficked people and "wrongly expand the definition of trafficking to include many entirely consensual adult sexual activities."

They argue that anyone receiving financial support from normal, consensual prostitution among adults could be prosecuted as a human trafficker; this includes a sex worker’s children, parents, spouse, domestic partner, roommate, landlord, or others. And if convicted they would be forced to register as a sex offender for life.

The San Francisco Chronicle and the San Jose Mercury News have endorsed Prop. 35, while the Sacramento Bee and the Los Angeles Times have urged voters to vote No on 35. 

How are you voting on Proposition 35? Tell us why in the comments. 

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hfran22 October 29, 2012 at 01:07 AM
By voting “Yes” on Prop 35, Californians will be making a statement that the brutality of human trafficking won't be tolerated in our state. 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 to sell children than to sell drugs. Law enforcement organizations, prosecutors, and child advocacy groups throughout the state have endorsed Prop 35. So have the California Democratic and Republican parties and numerous elected officials, private citizens and members of the business community. This is because Prop 35 will increase the penalties up to life in prison and a maximum $1.5 million fine for trafficking children. (The current maximum penalty is $100,000 for selling a child for sex) Prop 35 will also 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 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.
ANGELA BLOODSOE October 29, 2012 at 03:47 PM
HUMAN TRAFFICKING IS A TERM THAT NOT EASILY DIFINE I AM A AFICAN AMERICAN WOMEN AND I AM ALSO A VICTIM OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE THE TERM IS HARD FOR ME TO DIFINE BECAUSE AS A VICTIM I HAVE EXPERIENCE THE "TERM" ASSAULTED BY AFICAN AMERICAN WOMEN ARE JUST ASSAULTED NOT UNDERSTANDING HOW A PERSON CAN INCORPORATE THEMSELVES TO MY LIFE TO MY JOB WITHOUT ANY DIRECT CONTACT ARE PERMISSION FROM ME AS VICTIM OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE I DONT CONDUCT ANY OF MY LIFE SECOND ARE THIRD PERSON I AM HEART BROKEN AS A LEGAL CITIZEN I HAVE TO WAIT FOR MY LIFE UNTIL THESE WOMEN AND MEN UNDERSTAND AND COMPLETELY CONTAIN SINCE2005- SOME DONT UNDERSTAND THE" TERM" IDICTMENTS LIFE SENTENCE AFTER THEY ARE BEING CONTROL ARE NOT UNDERSTAND THAT THEIR ASSOCIATES ARE BEING CONTROL TO BE CONTAINED SOME ARE SO ILLITERATE TO THE TERM THEY CONTINUE TO ASSAULTS THE VICTIM SUFFERS LONGER THE COMMUNITY IS DESTROYED POOR ARE LOW INCOME WOMEN BECOME PREY MY ANSWER YES !!!!!!!!!!!!! THEIR SHOULD BE TOUGHER PENALTIES LONGER AND FASTER SENTENCING MORE EDUCATION AND COUNSELING FOR THE VICTIM
Perla Flores November 03, 2012 at 01:20 AM
Absent from this article's list of Prop 35 opponents are the anti-trafficking professionals that have actually been doing this work for years. Because the issue has become highly political, many agencies can not simply come out in opposition of Prop 35. However, many organizations and groups that routinely support different types of legislation have decided to not endorse Prop 35; this includes CAST in Los Angeles, SAGE in San Francisco. International anti-trafficking groups like Not for Sale and the Polaris Project do not endorse Prop 36. Also, both the AAUW and the League of Women Voters have expressed their concerns with the proposition. Vote no on Prop 35.

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