“If I’m a victim, why am I in this jail cell?”

Dear WestCoast Community:

Children who are bought and sold for sex are often arrested for prostitution rather than receiving the protection and support provided to victims of rape and child abuse. At WestCoast, 73% of the youth we serve in our intensive mental health program for commercially sexually exploited youth have been involved in the juvenile justice system as a result of their exploitation.

The California legislature now has the opportunity to reform this punitive policy. Senator Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) has introduced SB 1322, a bill that gives children immunity from prostitution charges. Instead of arresting them, law enforcement will contact child welfare services to initiate the same protective response that we provide for all other victims of child abuse.

The Senate Public Safety Committee recently passed SB 1322 with a 4-3 vote, and the bill will next be heard in the Senate Appropriations Committee. We want to thank Senator Mitchell for her commitment to support sexually exploited youth, and our local representatives, Senators Hancock and Leno, for their Aye votes.

We will update you as SB 1322 moves forward, and let you know how you can support the bill.

Thank you,

Jodie Langs
Director of Policy and Communications