Groups supporting the measure include the Badger State Sheriffs’ Association, End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin, the Children and Law Section of the State Bar of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Catholic Conference, the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault, and the Wisconsin Sheriffs and Deputy Sheriffs Association. Wisconsin Family Action is the only group registered against the bill.
In addition to banning human trafficking, Wisconsin requires law enforcement to refer suspected child trafficking to a local child protection office. Under state law, child sex trafficking is classified as child abuse for the purposes of child protection services.
Victims of trafficking can also request that a conviction be overturned or a criminal record removed for a prostitution charge.
“This bill does not legalize prostitution,” said Senator LaTonya Johnson, D-Milwaukee. “This bill only prevents child victims from being charged with prostitution while providing them with the opportunity to get the services, advice and treatment they need to lead healthy and productive lives as adults.
According to a 2019 state justice ministry report, 24 agencies from 16 counties reported at least one arrest of minors for prostitution between 2014 and 2018.
But treating children as criminals “only fosters this process of victimization,” said Adam Plotkin, legislative liaison for the state’s public defender’s office.