Prop. 35 would beef up current human trafficking penalties

In addition to the many propositions on the ballot this November, voters will get the chance to decide on an issue with ramifications that will reach far beyond the state.

If passed, Proposition 35 will impose stiffer penalties for convicted human traffickers. Among the proposed penalties are increased prison terms and fines, but the proposition also includes a mandate for human trafficking training of law enforcement and for sex offenders to disclose their online account information.

As defined by U.S. federal law, human trafficking is the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision or obtaining of a person for labor or services through the use of force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, debt bondage or slavery.

Proponents of the bill state that while prisons are dealing with overcrowding, those institutions were meant for human traffickers, who are “driven by greed, are instigating rape and torture on children and women, and treating people like lifeless and soulless things,” according to the California Against Sexual Exploitation Act website.

Human trafficking is the fastest growing and second largest criminal industry in the world today, right behind drug trafficking and illegal arms, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“We do realize that sex trafficking is high in San Francisco,” said Jasmin Taylor, assistant director of the SF State Women’s Center and senior journalism student.

However, she sees some faults in the proposition that she thinks need to be worked out.

“What would they be doing beyond training police officers?” she asked. “We should be spending more money on education, not on putting these people in prison.”

Others are even more dissatisfied with the proposition and believe that people might be misled to vote yes.

“We are concerned about the effects this ballot measure will have on trafficked victims, sex workers and our families, as well as voters who are being misled about what this ballot measure will do,” said Maxine Doogan, who is president of the Erotic Service Provider Legal, Educational and Research Project.

Doogan said that the ESPLER Project submitted the opponent’s portion of the proposition’s summary offered in the voter guide. She is concerned that the proposition has several flaws, mainly that the proposition wouldn’t fix human trafficking because it focuses on prostitution rather than the labor aspect of human trafficking.

“It’s an anti-prostitution piece of legislation, plain and simple,” she said. “We know that this law is not going to protect anybody.”

Zoe Woodcraft, a communications consultant for social change from Full Court Press Communications, works with Vote Yes on 35. Woodcraft referred to the website, which hosts several statements from Prop. 35 supporters. A couple of supporters claim to have been abused by human traffickers when they were between the ages of 12 and 14. Others just want to protect California’s women and children.

The Vote Yes on 35 website states that the proposition would heighten awareness and allow California residents to work on cleaning up the sex trafficking industry.

Prop. 35 states that 70 percent of revenue be collected from the projected fines would go to agencies and nonprofit groups providing direct services to victims. Another 30 percent would go toward trafficking prevention, witness protection and rescue operations.

It is estimated that annual state and local costs would total “a couple of million dollars” and rise if arrests increased. The costs would not be offset by revenue allocated to victims’ services.

Perla Flores, program director of the Women’s Center at SF State, said she thinks the proposition is a good stepping stone for what is already in place, but thinks the initiative could do more to fix the problem of human trafficking in the United States.

“Should we settle for whatever proposition is there, or should we try to make it better?” Flores asked.

Danielle Steffenhagen contributed to this report.

2 Comments on "Prop. 35 would beef up current human trafficking penalties"

  1. M. Anderson | October 18, 2012 at 5:28 pm |

    Human rights are for ALL humans & there is a way to balance it, instead of making people choose sides and decide “who to de-humanize”.

    The writers of Prop 35 have brought their proposal to CA State Legislature 3x and it has been voted down, 3x. Per Sharmin Bock @ the SFCAHT forum, “It’s been voted down by in CA legislative sessions 3x, because of the $250k price tag.” Well, now it has a vague price tag of “…just a few million”. It will go thru a lengthy & costly court battle, as parts of the proposal have already been deemed, ‘unconstitutional’ by the ACLU and Human Rights Watch.

    The language is divisive, “Californians Against Sexual Exploitation” implies that there are Californians FOR Sexual Exploitation. There aren’t any that I know, not in ANY adult industry.

    Additionally, this proposal does not address the underlying challenges that trafficked victims face.

    1. Those who are brave enough to seek out legal assistance do NOT receive ANY financial, housing, drug rehab, counseling or other support services unless they go thru a process by which they are “certified victims”. If we’re talking about ‘domestic’ trafficking, most of those are youth who do sex work with OTHER youth. Who is the trafficker then?

    2. To become a “certified victim”, one must testify against one’s trafficker. In many instances, this is not possible. Not when the trafficker is holding family members hostage, the ‘trafficker’ is another underage youth, or they make one up.

    3. The ‘raid & rescue” model is broken. It’s traumatic for anyone caught up in a raid. It’s frightening, the law enforcement officers are judgmental, crude, & make jokes at the expense of victims, they are treated terribly, (which you probably have no problem with.) Not to mention current statistics do not actually break out the number of actual trafficked victims vs. underage homeless youth doing survival sex work.

    4. This proposal is not victim centered at all. It does nothing to address the underlying causes of human trafficking, at all. It’s a lousy band-aid, for a much deeper wound.

    5. Prop 35 removes the burden of proof, “for force/coercion” and will make any “prior acts” committed by victims, while in the hands of said traffickers, inadmissable, but ONLY for sex trafficking victims who are underage. That does not treat all trafficked victims fairly. How soon before social services/case workers start seeing “more” trafficked youth, who will use that label to access funds/services & falsely accuse others out of spite? With the above burdens removed, it’s going to be a hot mess.

    I would think, that as a human being, who would like to see other human beings treated with respect & dignity, that you would vote this down, as CA legislature has already, to send a message that you’d like to see better proposals that encompass the above & pass intuitive legislature, that doesn’t victimize yet another under-represented class.

  2. Shame on the California State Democratic Party, the California State Republican Party, the California Federation of Labor, the California National Organization for Women, the California Federation of Teachers, the California Nurses Association and the NAACP for rubber stamping Prop 35 without bothering to ask to hear the opposition.

    These group have neglected their responsibility to act democratically on behalf of the victims of trafficking and their own members when they didn’t bother to vet properly this reckless ballot measure.

    Its not lost on the voters that Prop 35’s exact same lock’em up and throw away the key policies are being rolled back in both Prop 34 and 36. Not only have these failed policies robbed the public trust of affordable public education but they are contrary to the democracy these member organizations claim to value.

    Its of no small consequence that Prop 32 is before the voters poised take away these group’s right to politically associate as they have voted against their own self interest and violated the public trust in the process over and over again.

    These groups have clearly made a mistake by not soliciting the No On Prop 35 when it endorsed this bait and switch ballot measure. We call on them to take responsibility and admit they didn’t act democratically when they endorsed Prop 35.

    Vote No ON Prop 35
    Maxine Doogan
    10/23/2012
    noonprop35.info
    @opposeprop35
    noonprop35@gmail.com

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