The Latest

THE LATEST

THE LATEST THINKING

THE LATEST THINKING

The opinions of THE LATEST’s guest contributors are their own.

Because They Deserve It

W. Scott Cole

Posted on February 14, 2019 02:50

0 user

There is a war being waged. For the most part, it is waged quietly and we don’t hear much about it in the news. Mostly the war on sex trafficking comes onto our radar when there is a major operation like the one every year at the location of the Super Bowl, or when there is a big arrest or a large number of victims rescued. How often do we think about what happens to those victims after they are no longer being trafficked?

The main focus of news stories concerning sex trafficking is minors that have been rescued. The media rightly does not use those children’s names or say much about them other than that they have been rescued. Even less is said about what life is like for them after their rescue.

Before you read further, take just a minute and think about it. What is the life of a rescued trafficking victim like after they turn 18 (especially if they are an adult before they are rescued)?

How many of you started out thinking that they might have criminal records?  Most of them do, for prostitution if nothing else.  Many also have convictions for drug offenses, property offenses, and other crimes. We know that the prostitution convictions wouldn’t have happened if they were not being trafficked. We don’t know for sure if they would have gotten addicted to drugs or committed any of the other crimes if they had never been trafficked, but we do know that those convictions, for a victim, can also be directly connected to the trafficking.

It is an injustice because that criminal record, as I have written about many times, makes it very hard to get or keep a job and housing. As a result, the victim is victimized further, this time by society. An unscrupulous employer or landlord, when they see the word “prostitution” on the record may have suggestions on how the victim can get or keep her job or pay the rent. Some of these women have children of their own they are trying to provide for. They are no longer being trafficked, but life is still a long way from what it would be without a criminal record.

So, what can be done to help these trafficking victims?  Believe it or not, the question has been asked. At this point, 43 states and the District of Columbia have quietly answered the question. All of them, starting with New York in 2010, have passed laws that allow any trafficking victim to have their prostitution records sealed or expunged completely. Some provide for vacatur. For those unfamiliar with the word, vacatur goes beyond expungement. It is an acknowledgment by a court that a conviction should not have happened and completely annuls the entire proceeding that resulted in the conviction.

A few states, most notably California, Nebraska, and Florida, have taken relief for these women even further. Those states have provisions that allow any other convictions that are directly attributable to trafficking to also be sealed or expunged.

Nothing can make the victims of trafficking whole again. However, this one weapon in the quiet war against trafficking can at least allow them to work toward as normal a life as possible without having to fight the stigma of a criminal record while they are doing it.

On second thought, maybe these women don’t deserve this relief nearly as much as they have earned it.

W. Scott Cole

Posted on February 14, 2019 02:50

Comments

comments powered by Disqus

On Monday, I will sign the criminal justice reform bill into law--but a portion of Senate Bill 91 needs to be fixed. The...

THE LATEST THINKING

Video Site Tour

The Latest
The Latest

Subscribe to THE LATEST Newsletter.

The Latest
The Latest

Share this TLT through...

The Latest