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Bill to streamline prosecution of human trafficking passes committee

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(The Center Square) – A bill to protect human trafficking victims and make it easier to prosecute the perpetrators of the crime in California, got the unanimous support of the Assembly Public Safety Committee in a bipartisan 7-0 vote.

Senate Bill 236 Human Trafficking; Vertical Prosecution Program, would require the office of Emergency Services to provide funding to County District Attorneys to develop or maintain vertical prosecution teams for the prosecution of human trafficking crimes.

Vertical Prosecution eases the strain on victims by assigning one prosecutor to stay with the trafficking case from start to finish, This allows the victim to develop and maintain a relationship with a single prosecutor throughout the process, rather than having to interact with several prosecutors on each separate criminal charge arising through the action.

Senate Minority Leader Brian W. Jones (R-San Diego) who introduced the bill noted, “This bill will help bring justice to human trafficking victims and prevent further exploitation of innocent people by putting perpetrators behind bars.”

By having one district attorney responsible for prosecuting the case throughout all jurisdictions and charges, the prosecution process is streamlined and more effective.

Several counties in California employ vertical prosecution units, which have proven to be the most effective method in handling human trafficking. Prosecution of human trafficking cases present unique challenges. Prosecutors attempting to secure convictions face budgetary constraints and victims traumatized by the experience having to relive their ordeals by bringing charges. Still, this strategy of handling human trafficking cases has proven to be most successful, especially when paired with victim advocacy, resulting in an increase in convictions.

“Human trafficking is a form of modern day slavery,” said Jones. “The evil people who buy and sell humans for their own benefit must be convicted to prevent further trauma for all victims.”

Human trafficking does not just enslave the vulnerable, it involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to recruit, harbor, transport, provide, or obtain a person for the purposes of labor or sexual exploitation. Across America, anywhere from 14,000 to 17,000 victims are annually trafficked.

“In spite of California’s attention on human trafficking, a relatively small number of offenders have been sentenced to state prison for this offense,” Jones stated in a letter to Senator María Elena Durazo Chair, Senate Budget Subcommittee 5 requesting a one-time appropriation of $2.6 million to establish a grant program that funds or maintain vertical prosecution programs.

“This funding will help ensure that more traffickers are convicted of human trafficking rather than having charges reduced to other crimes, like traditional pimping and pandering. Several district attorney offices, including San Diego County, Contra Costa County, San Joaquin County, Ventura County, and Napa County, already employ this methodology for the prosecution of specific types of cases,” Jones stated.

The bill will next be heard in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

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