LOS ANGELES - The California Assembly Committee on Public Safety is facing criticism for blocking a crucial bill that sought to crack down on the sex trafficking of minors. The proposed legislation would have made this crime a serious felony, subject to penalties under the three strikes law.
Human trafficking survivor Odessa Perkins, who was herself trafficked at a young age, expressed her dismay at the committee's decision. "Today they blocked our children from being safe," she said. Perkins understands firsthand the suffering endured by children forced into the dark world of human trafficking. She says, "The innocence of these children can be stolen a hundred times a day, and another hundred times the next day," Perkins explained. "For those kids who manage to escape years down the line, imagine how many bodies have violated their young, innocent bodies, that's why combating human trafficking is of utmost importance."
Perkins, accompanied by other survivors of human trafficking, traveled to Sacramento to show their support for Senate Bill 14. However, the outcome was not what they had hoped for. "Why are you against something that could save children," asks Perkins.
Human trafficking is a multi billion-dollar business and California ranks as the state with the highest number of reported cases of human trafficking. In response to this alarming situation, State Sen. Shannon Grove of the 12th District authored Bill 14, aiming to curtail the sex trafficking of children.
Grove expressed her disappointment in the committee's leader, Reggie Jones Sawyer, who spearheaded the efforts to kill the bill. Jones Sawyer, who is currently running for Mark Ridley Thomas' Los Angeles City Council seat, issued a statement defending his position. He issued the following statement: "SB14 makes no new corrective actions or enhancements to laws already in place. Ultimately, members of the Assembly’s Public Safety Committee understood the author’s intent but recognized this bill needs considerable work and granted reconsideration."
However, Grove vehemently disagreed with Jones Sawyer's stance. "I mean, this bill received unanimous support from every Democrat in the Senate and then died in public safety," she noted. "Trafficking a minor in the state of California should be a strike-able offense, regardless of party affiliation."
For survivors like Odessa Perkins, the committee's decision is a devastating blow. "By making this public, the traffickers will know that they still have time to continue their vile activities and make money off these children," Perkins lamented.