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Debating California's Prop 35, human trafficking law


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While both the backers and opponents of Proposition 35 agree on the problem, they are at odds over how to deal with the crime and punishment of human trafficking in California. The ballot initiative would increase prison terms and fines for the sexual exploitation of vulnerable women and men.

"Our current law has gaping holes through which our children are falling into the hands of the traffickers that are there to catch them because our response in ineffective," said Sharmin Bock, Assistant District Attorney of Alameda County and co-author of Prop 35. "But our law doesn't reflect the reality of how these kids are today in fact sold not just on the street but on the internet."

Victims' advocates complain Prop 35 is wrong to have shorter prison sentences for labor traffickers (12 years) than sex traffickers (20 years), because most victims fall under the former. Kathleen Kim, Professor or Law at Loyola Law School and co-author of AB 22, California’s current human trafficking law, is against Prop 35 because she believes it doesn't go far enough to protect funds for victims.

"Proposition 35 is undoubtedly well intentioned, however it takes a predominantly criminal enforcement approach without attendant broadening of victims' rights and access to relief," said Kim on AirTalk. "That's my primary objection, because it takes an predominantly criminal enforcement approach, it creates some unintended consequences on the actual survivors of human trafficking."

California Attorney General Kamala Harris is releasing a report soon on how to deal with trafficking. She convened a statewide working group with more than 100 stakeholders to hear their concerns and recommendations.

Prop Breakdown

Official Title — Californians Against Sexual Exploitation Act Initiative.

  • Increase prison terms for human traffickers

  • Require convicted sex traffickers to register as sex offenders.

  • Require all registered sex offenders to disclose their internet accounts.

  • Require criminal fines from convicted human traffickers to pay for services to help victims.

  • Mandate law enforcement training on human trafficking.
  • Weigh In:

    How pervasive is this problem? Why would a ballot initiative be necessary when laws are on the books already and new proposals are coming from the AG's office? Should sex slavery and labor slavery crimes be handled differently?


    Sharmin Bock, Assistant District Attorney, Alameda County; Co-author of Proposition 35

    Kathleen Kim, Professor or Law, Loyola Law School; Co-author of AB 22, California’s current human trafficking law