Child sex trafficking victims in Georgia would be immune from prosecution and receive increased medical treatment and counseling under “safe harbor” legislation filed Thursday by Senate Health and Human Services Committee Chairwoman Renee Unterman, R-Buford.
Senate Bill 8 aims to build upon the work of lawmakers in 2011, upped the prison sentences for criminals who deal in underage prostitution and trafficking from one year to between 10 and 20 years, with fines up to $100,000. If the person trafficked is younger than 18 and coerced, the sentence jumps to 25 to 50 years.
Unterman, however, said minors too often get swept up in the criminal charges without proper consideration for their ordeal. She has also proposed Senate Resolution 7, a constitutional amendment to create a dedicated state account for child victims’ medical services. It would be funded through increased fines of convicted pimps and traffickers.
Unterman has worked on the legislation with the assistance of several advocacy groups including Street Grace, Wellspring Living and youthSpark. A candlelight vigil acknowledging the legislation’s filing is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday at North Avenue Presbyterian Church in Atlanta.