On Tuesday, the Senate Public Safety Committee unanimously passed Senate Bill 14, which adds human trafficking of a minor to the list of crimes categorized as a “serious” felony under California law. This means the crime would count as a “strike” under the Three Strikes Law and those found guilty of human trafficking would be subject to the same punishments that apply to all other serious crimes, including increased jail time.
According to U.S. law, human trafficking is defined as “a crime that involves exploiting a person for labor, services, or commercial sex. …In some cases [of human trafficking], traffickers trick, defraud or physically force victims into providing commercial sex. In others, victims are lied to, assaulted, threatened or manipulated into working under inhumane, illegal or otherwise unacceptable conditions.”
Senator Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) authored this bi-partisan bill with Senators Anna Caballero (D-Fresno), and Susan Rubio (D-West Covina) in response to California’s growing human trafficking problem. The state consistently ranks highest in the nation when it comes to human trafficking victims. Children as young as 11 years old are exploited daily and suffer from severe physical and emotional trauma.
Shockingly, human trafficking is currently considered a non-serious and non-violent crime in California, which may explain the high number of cases. Because the state’s Three Strikes Law doesn’t apply to non-serious, non-violent crimes, repeat offenders may avoid longer sentences and can potentially use generous good-behavior credits to cut their sentences short.
This same bill was killed by the Senate Public Safety Committee last year. But the persistence of Grove and her democratic colleagues paid off. But in order to get committee members to agree to SB 14, the bill had to be narrowed to apply to minor trafficking victims and not adult trafficking victims. The bill still has a long way to go. If the bill gets approved by the Senate, it will have to go through the Assembly Public Safety Committee, which killed a similar bill last year.
The bill has garnered support from District Attorney offices across the state, many human trafficking assistance programs, police, and sheriff’s departments, and multiple California cities, according to California Globe.
Elizabeth Smart, a trafficking victim who was held captive in Utah for nine months in 2002 and 2003, has also come forward to speak out in favor of the bill.
“This bill should be passed into law without hesitation,” said Smart. “Too many victims fear coming forward and speaking out for fear of their traffickers’ repercussions. Too often we are restricted in our efforts to serve justice, and far too often victims and survivors never even glimpse justice. Trafficking is heinous and brutal – a crime thankfully many of us will never experience. This is a small step we can take to begin protecting our survivors and procure some small modicum of justice.”
An estimated 40 million people have been forced into human trafficking– a form of modern-day slavery– in the last decade. The crime has become one of the fastest growing and most lucrative in the world, generating an estimated $150 billion each year.
In a press release on the bill, Sen. Grove notes that according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “victims are at increased risk of injury, sexual assault, infectious diseases, substance misuse, untreated chronic medical conditions, malnutrition, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), major depression and other mental health disorders, homicide, and suicide.”
This modern-day slavery has been running rampant in California for far too long. Victims of human trafficking deserve justice, which requires harsher punishments for their perpetrators.
SB 14 now makes its way to the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Use this link to call your Assembly member in support of SB 14. It’s time to finally take action and protect our communities, standing with those affected by these heinous crimes.