Panel vows to pursue sex traffickers

Human Trafficking bill
Human Trafficking bill

A state panel vowed Tuesday to pursue the johns in prostitution transactions and possibly create courts dedicated to human trafficking cases through legislation in the upcoming session.

State Rep. Neil Abramson, D-New Orleans, gave members of the Joint Human Trafficking Study Commission a sheet of paper with 22 ideas for changes in state law. “The items may change slightly. The devil’s in the details,” he said.

Ideas under consideration include:

Criminalizing the actions of the customer who purchases sex from a prostitute.

Creating human trafficking divisions within state district courts.

Increasing penalties for trafficking or soliciting sex from a prostitute who is recruited from a shelter.

Barring evidence of a victim’s past sexual behavior from being admissable in court.

Allowing sex trafficking victims to pursue civil remedies.

Permitting wiretaps in investigations of the commercial sexual exploitation of minors.

Mandating that law enforcement training include information about human trafficking.

“We want to make Louisiana the gold standard in protecting our children (by) dealing with this scourge that can easily destroy a society,” said state Sen. Gerald Long, R-Winnfield.

The next legislative session convenes at noon March 10.

During last year’s session, legislators created a mandatory assessment of $2,000 for those convicted of trafficking children for sex or engaging in prostitution with someone under the age of 17.

Members of the study commission vowed Tuesday to pursue more changes.

Human trafficking often conjures up images of young girls smuggled into the U.S. from other countries and forced into sexual servitude.

Exactly how big of a problem that scenario is in Louisiana remains unclear. However, the state does have a large number of runaways and homeless youths. Prostitution also is a problem.

Earlier this year, three people were arrested in Donaldsonville for allegedly turning a 14-year-old girl into a prostitute. Authorities contend Lakeisha Marshall, Trenace Tyler and Wendell Walker contributed to the abuse by arranging her dates or driving her to them.

State Police still are looking for Darneesha Lashay Martin, of Lafayette. Martin is accused of using manicures and clothes to lure runaways into prostitution.

The Joint Human Trafficking Study Commission, which formed last year to study human trafficking in Louisiana, met at the State Capitol to discuss what changes are needed for the upcoming session.

The meeting was short, giving commission members time to share their thoughts on the problem of sex crimes.

State Rep. Valarie Hodges, R-Denham Springs, said officials need to dispel the notion that prostitution is a victimless crime. For every act of prostitution, she said, there is a victim.

“(In) many, many cases of prostitution, it’s forced and it is slavery,” Hodges said.

Long ended the meeting by giving commission members a book recommendation. He suggested they read “Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery” by Eric Metaxas.

The book recounts the life of Wilberforce, who was one of Abraham Lincoln’s childhood heroes. Wilberforce lead the charge to abolish the British slave trade.