Sara’s Law and the Preventing Unfair Sentencing Act of 2021 (H.R. 2858)
The Preventing Unfair Sentencing Act of 2021, or “Sara’s Law,” was introduced into Congress on April 26, 2021. The legislation is named after Sara Kruzan who was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole at 17 years old for killing her trafficker. She was groomed at age 11, then sex trafficked from 13-16 years old. After escaping, she returned to kill her abuser. In the trial, she was tried as an adult and was sentenced to life in jail without parole. The court did not consider the impact childhood trauma and victimization had on Kruzan’s decision-making. She served 19 years and 7 months before the governor commuted and reduced her sentence.
Today, many do not consider the impact childhood trauma has on a child sex trafficking victim’s criminal conduct. Child sex trafficking victims are often tried as adults and given harsh sentences for crimes they committed as a result of their victimization. This approach ignores the impact childhood trauma has on a victim’s decision-making process. Sara’s Law acknowledges that child sex trafficking victims are capable of rehabilitation and recovery and deserving of trauma-informed care.
- Youth as young as 13 years old can be sentenced to life in prison without parole. Over 2,500 U.S. children are serving this sentence.
- Research shows that girls who are sent into the juvenile justice system have typically experienced overwhelmingly high rates of sexual violence.
- Studies show that youth of color are vastly more likely to be charged as if they were adults.
Sara’s Law protects child sex trafficking victims by:
- Allowing courts to take a child’s history into account and depart from mandatory minimums for youthful victim offenders who have been trafficked, abused, or assaulted to consider the “effect of trauma on the offender’s conduct.”
- Allowing mandatory minimums to be reduced by 35% to reflect the juvenile’s age and prospect for rehabilitation.
Learn More & Take Action:
- Ask Congress to pass Sara’s Law here: act.sharedhope.org/vKWqG5C
- Take action on the TVPRA bills that incorporate Sara’s Law
- Visit sharedhope.org/what-we-do/bring-justice/ to access Shared Hope’s research and advocacy resources.
- For technical assistance, contact Christine Raino at email@example.com.
- Responding to Sex Trafficking Victim-Offender Intersectionality: A Guide for Criminal Justice Stakeholders: sharedhope.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/SH_Responding-to-Sex-Trafficking-Victim-Offender-Intersectionality2020_FINAL.pdf
- National Survivor Network Member’s Survey: Impact of Criminal Arrest and Detention on Survivors of Human Trafficking: nationalsurvivornetwork.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/VacateSurveyFinal.pdf
- The Sexual Abuse to Prison Pipeline: The Girls’ Story: The Sexual Abuse To Prison Pipeline: The Girls’ Story (georgetown.edu)