Alaska must stop prioritizing incarceration over education to reduce sex trafficking • Alaska Beacon

Currently Parliamentary Bill 68 is before Parliament. This bill aims to combat sex trafficking, but it further criminalizes sex workers and survivors of sex trafficking with the new crime of felony prostitution. HB 68 also seeks to change the penalties for solicitation, making it a Class A misdemeanor and for a third offense within five years, a Class C felony. Previously solicitation was a class B misdemeanor.

Another new crime created by HB 68, boss of sex trafficking victim, would make soliciting a felony without worrying about whether the person may be a victim of trafficking. This means that if a client made an appointment and discovered that they were being trafficked, they would already be guilty of a crime for simply soliciting it. There is no immunity for reporting sex trafficking for clients. When misdemeanors become serious crimes, it becomes impossible for clients to report violent crimes like sex trafficking.

Angie Kemp, director of the Alaska Criminal Division’s Department of Law, justified the costs associated with House Bill 68 to the House Finance Committee by sharing three false statistical claims that have been widely debunked. It is common for inflated statistics be considered the truth when a person in authority presents non-factual information.

Kemp declared that human and sex trafficking is a $32 billion industry worldwide, second only to the illicit sale of controlled drugs. It is often exaggerated and not well supported. The Washington Post already debunked this with a much smaller number.

Kemp declared “Statistics are often cited according to which individuals, particularly young girls, enter the sex industry between the ages of 12 and 14.” This statistic has been widely discredited. Atlantic And The Washington Post I found the source of this information: the 2001 study from the University of Pennsylvania which only included minors and not adults. The study has not been peer-reviewed and the researchers themselves have said it is outdated.

This was followed by “estimates” from the Justice Department and others, citing human and sex trafficking numbers at 27 million in the United States. Big numbers attract media attention and big money. These estimates remain too fragile to be cited without a good dose of skepticism.

Kemp goes on to say that “sex trafficking prosecutions increased significantly between 2011 and 2020. The Justice Department said there was a 61% increase in referrals for sex trafficking or human trafficking.” Yet Nancy Meade, the general counsel for the Alaska court system, declared that the actual number of sex trafficking charges in Alaska is low, averaging two per year, including when an individual is charged with multiple counts of sex trafficking.

One good thing the bill would provide is the ability for victims of sex trafficking to seek the expungement of a prostitution conviction. HB 68 would require evidence they were victims of sex trafficking. The financial consequences of this provision are staggering. THE Alaska court system estimates $37,700 to implement. THE Ministry of Public Security The Division of Statewide Services is requesting $42,000 to create forms and perform other administrative tasks.

Bill 68 proposes lifetime bans on various professional licenses for people convicted of sex trafficking, including sex workers and sex trafficking survivors who are not accused of harming anyone. Yet these limitations do not apply to people convicted of other unclassified crimes, such as rapists and murder.

The Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Council calls for nearly $1.7 million for public education and awareness campaigns every year from 2025 for community services and “John schools”. This is added to the tax note detailed in HB 259 requesting $300,000. It’s clear evidence-based research that John schools do not reduce recidivism.

As the state legislature works to recriminalize consensual activities primarily by adults, which are already unduly criminalized, it ignores the need to properly fund schools. Research shows that the main risk factors for children who fall prey to sex traffickers are lack of access to safe, stable housing and education.

Alaska must move away from practices that push our school children, especially our most at-risk children, out of classrooms. Alaska must stop prioritizing incarceration over education, the latter of which is a concrete part of the social safety net.

The misconceptions surrounding HB 68 are considerable. The ramifications of HB 68 extend beyond just legislation; its impact could significantly affect both the future of Alaska’s children and the state’s workforce.