CALIFORNIA MUST PROTECT ALL SURVIVORS OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING, SB 14 WILL FURTHER PUNISH SURVIVORS
Human trafficking is a horrific crime and we must do everything we can to get victims to safety and hold traffickers accountable. But SB 14 (R-Grove) will harm the very people it is supposed to protect by further punishing survivors and deterring other victims from coming forward.
Arresting and incarcerating victims is not a good anti-trafficking policy but it happens every day.
Our legal system regularly fails to differentiate between human trafficking victims and their traffickers, who use force, fraud, and coercion to control their victims. Through these systems of violence and control, victims are often forced to commit crimes.
The Biden Administration’s National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking calls for protecting victims of human trafficking from “incarceration, fines, or penalties for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking.” But a National Survivor Network survey found that 9 out of 10 trafficking survivors have been arrested.
Criminal records keep victims vulnerable to continued exploitation by making it harder for them to access employment, safe housing, public benefits, immigration relief, and crime victims’ compensation.
Told me they didn’t want me they wanted him but If I didn’t [cooperate] they would punish me.Anonymous Trafficking Survivor
All too often, law enforcement agents try to coerce survivors into testifying against their trafficker in court, which can be extremely dangerous. They leverage the threat of incarceration and withhold victims’ services to get survivors to testify. In fact, California victims of human trafficking can be denied crime victims’ compensation just for failing to cooperate with a law enforcement agency in the arrest and conviction of their trafficker.
Nobody was concerned about my, my needs or concerns. They only cared about my cooperation.Anonymous Trafficking Survivor
SB 14 will victimize human trafficking survivors via unjust incarceration or the threat of it.
Victims and survivors of human trafficking need social services, victims services, and support to get to safety. The last thing we should be doing is re-traumatizing them, punishing them, and threatening them with decades in prison. But that’s exactly what SB 14 will do.
SB 14 will risk ensnaring victims of human trafficking – including minors ages 15, 16, and 17. Prosecutors will leverage the threat of a “strike” sentence under the notorious Three Strikes Law against the trafficking victim in order to get them to testify against their trafficker. If they refuse because they’re scared and worried for their safety and the safety of their family, they will be sent to prison for decades while their trafficker gets off scot free.
SB 14 will perpetuate human trafficking, not address it.
Underreporting of human trafficking will likely worsen with SB 14. California law protects survivors who were forced to commit nonviolent offenses from being criminalized. Yet they are still being arrested, charged and convicted due to a lack of awareness of or disregard for survivors’ legal rights. As a result, victims are afraid to ask law enforcement or service providers for help and human tracking continues to be largely underreported.
By threatening survivors with decades or life in prison, SB 14 will drive even more victims further underground and deeper into the clutches of their traffickers. Traffickers depend on and exploit the threat of arrest, incarceration, and even deportation to keep their victims away from services and programs that can help them reach safety.
While survivors of human traffickers are punished, traffickers will continue to escape accountability under SB 14.
SB 14’s author has referred to a case of a trafficker from her district to demonstrate the need for SB 14. However, SB 14 would actually not apply to this case – nor will it apply to countless other trafficking cases.
In the case in question, Kajuan Adriana Richardson was sentenced to 8 years in prison and served 4 years for trafficking an underage girl in Orange County. After his release, he was convicted of trafficking minors again in Kern County.
How did this happen?
The Orange County District Attorney’s Office cut a plea deal and agreed to drop the more serious charges specifically relating to trafficking of a minor:
- Human Trafficking of victims under 18 years of age
- Pandering with a minor under 16 years old
Because the O.C. case was not a child trafficking conviction due to the plea deal agreed to by O.C. prosecutors, Kern County prosecutors would not be able to charge a strike under SB 14.