California Decriminalizes Prostitution for Minors After Gov. Brown Signs Bills to Help Young Trafficking Victims

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A juvenile appears before Judge Catherine Pratt in Succeeding Through Achievement and Resilience (STAR) Court for human trafficking at the Compton Courthouse. (Credit: Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times)

Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday signed more than half a dozen bills that decriminalize prostitution and increase protections for young trafficking victims in court amid growing efforts in California to help children and young adults swept into the trade of forced sex and labor.

Among the bills passed were laws that would prohibit the disclosure of victims’ personal information, provide victims’ services to trafficking witnesses and allow minors under age 16 to testify through closed-circuit televisions in certain cases.

But also approved were hotly contested bills that would decriminalize prostitution and allow human trafficking victims to vacate prior convictions and seal their records.

Senate Bill 1322, authored by Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), make the crimes of solicitation and loitering with intent to commit prostitution misdemeanors inapplicable to children younger than 18. It also allows law enforcement to take sexually exploited children into temporary custody — only if leaving them unattended would pose an immediate threat to their health or safety.

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