Monday, April 16, 2012

From the Poughkeepsie Journal: Tougher Human Trafficking Laws Sought

Measure calls for an increase in protections, harsher penalties

Reprinted from the Poughkeepsie Journal April 13, 2012

ALBANY — Lawmakers and prosecutors are pushing for a stronger human-trafficking law that would increase protections for victims and strengthen penalties against traffickers.

Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, D-Scarsdale, introduced a bill this week to revise the state’s 2007 law to hold sex and labor traffickers, sex-tourism operators and other human traffickers accountable.

The measure would particularly increase protections in cases of commercial sexual exploitation of children.

It would also close a gap in the state’s 2008 Safe Harbor Law, which prohibits prosecution and incarceration of children on prostitution charges. Children ages 16 and 17 still have been arrested and convicted in criminal court because the judicial system has some discretion about transferring cases to Family Court, Paulin said Thursday.

Prosecutors, members of law enforcement and organizations that serve victims of human trafficking have pointed out other gaps and loopholes in the law that make it more difficult to catch traffickers, she said.

“My bill builds on the 2007 anti-trafficking law by increasing accountability for the criminals, the buyers and the traffickers who are fueling the underground growth of this massive industry,” Paulin said.

The legislation would create the felony sex offenses of first-, second- and third-degree aggravated patronizing a minor so penalties would conform to those for statutory rape. Under existing law, patronizing a minor for prostitution is a class E felony. Rape is a class B felony, a more serious offense.

“People who buy sex from children should face the same penalty as people who commit statutory rape of children,” said Dorchen Leidholdt, director of the Center for Battered Women’s Legal Services at Sanctuary for Families in New York City.

The legislation would classify sex trafficking as a class B violent felony, which carries more penalties than a B felony, as it is categorized under current law. It would increase the penalty for labor trafficking from a class D felony to a class B felony.

Sen. Steve Saland, R-Poughkeepsie, said he would introduce the bill in his house, “knowing full well that it’s going to need some work.”

New York has made progress, but there is room for improvement on human trafficking. “Clearly there’s more that needs to be done. It’s just how do we get there,” he said.

Paulin said she and Saland put in everything they want in the bill and will begin the negotiating process.

The bill would remove New York’s requirement that prosecutors prove coercion in sex-trafficking cases involving children. New York’s Safe Harbor Act recognizes that prostituted individuals younger than 18 are exploited youth, as does federal law.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Tell us what you think, please.