Lawmakers pass sex trafficking bill; would increase penalties, make crime gender neutral

By NICK STANEK
Capital News Service
LANSING – House lawmakers recently approved a bill that would enhance penalties against sex traffickers, raising fines for brothel keepers from $2,500 to $5,000. The law also extends a 20-year jail sentence to anyone caught trying to recruit prostitutes into the sex trade. The bill was unopposed and is part of a series of bills to change how victims of sex trafficking are treated, said Rep. Joseph Graves, R-Argentine Township. Human rights organizations across the state are pushing to shift the focus of sex crimes from victims.

“There needs to be a paradigm shift in the way prostitution cases are treated,” said Bridgette Carr, the director of the Human Trafficking Law Clinic in Ann Arbor. “The law treats [prostitutes] as criminals but the reality is, they are victims of sexual abuse.”
Carr said law enforcement lacks the resources that victims of sex crimes need to treat them as victims instead of criminals.

Push on to toughen sex trafficking laws

By MICHAEL GERSTEIN
Capital News Service
LANSING – In the midst of what experts call the second-fastest growing criminal industry in the world after drug trafficking, some legislators are pushing for tougher punishment for sex traffickers. The new legislation would ensure that defendants convicted of coercing children ages 16 and 17 into prostitution are more stiffly punished, said Senate sponsor Judy Emmons, R-Sheridan. Sex trafficking is widely considered a form of modern-day slavery. When Michigan’s human trafficking laws were bolstered in 2010, sentences for those exploiting 16- and 17-year-olds were shorter than for younger children, Emmons said. Emmons said the bill, pending in the Judiciary Committee, would change that and set a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

State targets underage sex traffic; some criticize methods

By JON GASKELL
CAPITAL NEWS SERVICE
LANSING – Michigan has cracked down on sex trafficking of minors, but some experts say the state is taking the wrong approach to combating the problem. According to the FBI, 100,000 children are exploited for commercial sex in the United States each year. While there are no reliable estimates for the number of underage sex workers in Michigan, experts say the practice is widespread. “There are cases all across the state,” said University of Michigan human trafficking expert Bridgette Carr. “From villages to metropolitan areas, people tend to think of sex trafficking as something exotic or foreign, but it’s an issue everywhere.”
Carr said traffickers identify vulnerable victims, lure them into prostitution through manipulation and keep them compliant through physical abuse and psychological coercion.