SALT LAKE CITY — Utah lawmakers are looking at strengthening safeguards against human trafficking and minors involved in prostitution.
The House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee passed HB254, 7-0, on Feb. 12. It moves on to the full House for consideration.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jennifer Seelig, D-Salt Lake, is a bill that puts in place new protections for the victims of human trafficking. Under this bill a minor will no longer be put into the justice system as a criminal for participating in prostitution or any type of commercial sex.
Major Brian Redd, with the Utah Department of Safety, said, “There is trafficking going on in our highways all the time. I was involved in a case in Washington County where these females were being taken to places like the county fairground where there were people waiting for them in less-than-desirable conditions.”
A presentation given on the bill explained that if minors are apprehended for prostitution they would be treated as criminals instead of victims.
“There are all types of crimes going on, and this is probably the most important one, that we recover missing, exploited endangered children,” Redd said.
Alana Kindness, the executive director of the Coalition Against Sexual Assault, was present and said, “I know that this measure, HB254, follows the recommended best practices that are available now for responding to minor victims of trafficking by guiding them and channeling them into protective services rather than a criminal justice route.”
This bill will also address the more psychological side of the victims’ trauma from human trafficking.