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Senator Kirk: It’s Time to End Child Sex Trafficking

Sponsors series of bills to provide “safe harbor” to minors and enhance prosecution of co-conspirators

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WASHINGTON–(ENEWSPF)–November 19, 2013.  As part of his continuing effort to combat child sex trafficking in Illinois and nationwide, U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) today announced his support for the Stop Exploitation Through Trafficking Act (SETT) and Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, bills that would help improve national anti-trafficking policies by requiring that the law treat women as victims in trafficking crimes and increase authorities’ ability to prosecute human trafficking accomplices.

“For many years Illinois has been a hub for sex trafficking,” Sen. Kirk said. “Because of our state’s central location, traffickers use our transportation infrastructure, including O’Hare International Airport, to bring young women into the state and transport them elsewhere. It is long overdue that we exhaust every means possible to end the practice of pimps exploiting kids. Under the law young girls should be viewed as victims, not defendants. These victims deserve every possible opportunity for restitution – meaning prosecutors need to be able to go after co–conspirators of these sex trafficking rings, not just the leaders.”

Stop Exploitation Through Trafficking

According to the University of Illinois, in metropolitan Chicago 16,000 to 25,000 women and girls are involved in commercial sex trade annually, with one-third of them first getting involved in prostitution by the age of 15, and 62 percent by the age of 18. The Stop Exploitation Through Trafficking Act (SETT), introduced today by Senators Kirk, Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) would combat sex trafficking by requiring minors who are sold for sex to be considered victims, not defendants. The “safe harbor” provisions from states like Illinois serve as a model for SETT.

More Information about the Stop Exploitation Through Trafficking Act (SETT):

Includes a provision modeled after Minnesota’s “safe harbor” laws. The provision requires all states have a safe harbor provision to help ensure minors who are sold for sex aren’t prosecuted as defendants, but are instead treated as victims. When a state passes a safe harbor law, it means that kids sold for sex should be steered towards child protection services, rather than being arrested, charged, or convicted under a state’s criminal laws. Current federal law only suggests a model state statute – this bill will require that states have a safe harbor as a condition for receiving federal grants.

Allows victims of sex trafficking to participate in the Job Corps program to help them get back on their feet. Our Job Corps programs already help teen moms, runaways, and kids who drop out of school. This bill makes clear that victims of sex trafficking should be eligible for our current job training and skills building programs to help empower sex trafficking victims so that they have the tools they need to find a way out of the cycle.

Helps victims pursue financial restitution and recover damages. In some parts of the law, victims of federal crimes can recover triple damages from people who harm them. Under this new bill, when sex trafficking victims sue their perpetrators, they’ll be able to get the damages they are due from the people who harmed them. The bill will also encourage better tracking of financial restitution orders so that victims can actually collect on the restitution they are due.

Creates a National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking. The National Strategy will help coordinate efforts to investigate and prevent human trafficking between federal, state, local, and tribal agencies. This will help set clear goals and focus resources to help combat human trafficking. The bill will also encourage better data sharing between different law enforcement agencies.

Strengthens requirements for convicted sex trafficking offenders to be listed higher on the National Sex Offender Registry so they are reported and tracked closely to ensure they can’t victimize anyone else. Convicted offenders are classified into different Tiers, based on the severity of their crimes. The different Tier numbers correspond to how frequently a sex offender is required to report relevant personal information and make in-person appearances before law enforcement. Most sex trafficking offenders are currently convicted as Tier II criminals. The bill would reclassify those convicted of state or federal sex trafficking crimes into the more stringent Tier III. This means they must register for life and appear in person every 3 months to have a picture taken and verify registry information.

Strengthens the National Human Trafficking Hotline. Right now, the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline helps connect victims with services they need and passes on crime tips to law enforcement. This bill would make sure that the hotline is backed by the force of law. Although the Hotline operates with some federal authorization, this bill puts the National Human Trafficking Hotline on par with other national hotlines designed to serve victims.

Justice for Victims of Trafficking

The nation’s Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) statutes are widely recognized as law enforcement’s most potent weapons against organized crime. The Victims of Trafficking Act introduced today by Senators Kirk, Cornyn, Klobuchar and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) applies RICO’s principles to organized sex trafficking and improves the national, state and local responses to victims of human trafficking.

“My goal is to give police and prosecutors the power to arrest sex traffickers – the worst of the worst – and hold gang members accountable for the full scope of crimes conducted by their criminal organizations,” Sen. Kirk said.

Senator Kirk worked to include language in Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act that would improve federal racketeering laws (RICO) by giving law enforcement the ability to prosecute those who assist in human trafficking, not just those who are part of the operation or management of a ring. This provision would also allow for prosecution of those giving financial assistance to a criminal network’s activities.

A copy of the bill can be found here and a summary of the bill can be found here.

To read more about the history of Senator Kirk’s fight to end the sexual exploitation of children, click here.

Source: kirk.senate.gov

 

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