As Congress heads into Summer Recess and 27 of the 46 states in session in 2022 have adjourned for the calendar year, Shared Hope is doing a legislative update blog series on state and federal laws that have been introduced and enacted with the potential to impact survivors of child and youth sex trafficking. In the first blog we focused on state non-criminalization laws. In this second blog we look at state laws that impact juvenile justice and access to services.
Another priority issue in this year’s state legislative sessions has been juvenile justice. Many children who have been commercially sexually exploited have been involved in the juvenile justice system, either prior to their exploitation or as a result of their victimization. It is critical that juvenile justice agencies, as child serving entities, know how to properly identify victims at risk of child sex trafficking and sexual exploitation and provide access to specialized services to ensure that they avoid harsh punitive measures. A number of states introduced legislation. Notably, Tennessee passed SB1037/HB1100 amends the Code to require the Department of Children’s Services, the Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, and other agencies to work together to develop a mechanism to identify and provide services to sexually abused or trafficked children. Additionally, Tennessee legislature passed SB2400/HB2147, which requires the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services to develop screening/assessment tools to evaluate at risk system-involved youth and require distribution to Department of Juvenile Justice for use with justice-involved youth. Additionally, SB2400/HB2147 provides certain protections to child sex trafficking victims in the courts, including raising the age in which minors can use CCTV in a courtroom to testify from 13 years old to 18 years old requiring the juvenile court to consider past trauma or abuse, including trafficking victimization, when deciding of whether to transfer a juvenile to adult court consistent with Shared Hope’s framework. Finally, SB2400/HB2147 provides affirmative defense for minor victims to trafficking charge and provides sentencing mitigation provision based on duress as a trafficking victim
Other notable juvenile justice legislation enacted this year by state legislatures include:
- California SB827 Repeals provisions that authorize a prosecutor to begin a criminal case against a minor in a criminal court and that would impose an adult sentence for a minor convicted in criminal court and not transferred to juvenile court; authorizes a person who is 19 to 24 years of age to petition for a return to a juvenile facility, to conform with the age of eligibility for a petition to transfer to an adult facility.
- Maryland HB459/SB691 raises the minimum age a child can be charged in juvenile court to 13, consistent with Shared Hope’s framework and international standards.
- Nevada AB230 eliminates the mandatory certification of a child as an adult for certain offenses and provides instead for the discretionary certification of a child for criminal proceedings as an adult for all offenses over which the juvenile court has exclusive jurisdiction.
- New York A8739 increases minimum age for juvenile court jurisdiction to 12 years of age and increases maximum age for juvenile court jurisdiction to include older minors (16 & 17) for certain offenses age for juvenile court jurisdiction.
Access to Services
Ensuring that comprehensive, trauma-informed, individualized services are provided to victims is vital. Without access to services, victims remain at risk of re-exploitation. Shared Hope supports states’ use of multiple entry points for child survivors to receive specialized services, including child welfare, juvenile justice, and non-system involved entry points such as regional navigators or Minnesota’s No Wrong Door model.
A number of states passed legislation that would expand access to services for children and youth survivors of sex trafficking. Tennessee passed sweeping reform, including SB2739/HB2591 which requires the Department of Children’s Services and the Department of Human Services to collaborate to provide recommendations to the General Assembly on resources and services specific to persons from 18 to 24 years of age who have been victims of child sex trafficking. Additionally, Tennessee passed SB2740/HB2592 which requires several states agencies to develop recommendations on the creation of multidisciplinary teams to provide responses specific to child sex trafficking cases and SB2400/HB2147 which requires human trafficking non-profits to sit on child welfare investigation MDTs for all child sex trafficking cases. SB2400/HB2147 also requires child welfare to determine specialized services for child sex trafficking victims and requires Department of Children’s Services to develop policy for serving foreign national child victims.
Other notable juvenile justice bills include Delaware’s HB271 which amends state law to requires the Delaware Department of Services for Children, Youth, and Their Families to provide transitional services beginning at 16 years old and expands eligibility from under 21 to under 23 years of age which was enacted and Maine’s HP605 which adds child sex trafficking to definition of abuse and removes caregiver barrier for child sex trafficking cases to ensure that victims are able to access services through a child welfare response.
To learn more about state legislation that addresses the needs of sex trafficking victims and to take action in support of this critical issue, please visit Shared Hope’s State Advocacy Action Center.
If you are a lawmaker or advocate seeking to craft strong laws to fight juvenile sex trafficking and wish to speak with Shared Hope’s Policy Team for technical assistance, please visit request a consultation.