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A bill that would make child sex trafficking a three-strike felony passed the legislature Sept. 13 and is on the governor’s desk to sign.

Although child sex trafficking is currently a felony, it is not a three-strikes felony. Three-strike felonies impose a minimum double term for the second conviction of the type, and 25 years to life for the third strike of the type

“Today is a huge victory for every survivor who has shared their story in hopes of making a change with Senate Bill 14,” the bill’s author, Sen. Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) said in a press release. “With the passage of this bill, we are sending a clear message to repeat child traffickers— we intend to put you out of business and into prison.”

California’s three-strike system was established in 1994, by Proposition 184. Murder, mayhem, rape, lewd acts with children, attempted murder, arson, kidnapping, robbery, shooting from a vehicle and continuous sexual abuse of a child are all currently three-strike felonies.

Under current law, child sex trafficking convicts can be sentenced to a sentence of five to 12 years in prison, and a maximum sentence of 15 years to life and a fine of more than $1.5 million, if the offense includes force, fear, fraud, violence or threats. Convicts also are required to register as a sex offender.

The Oakland group Sister Warriors Freedom Coalition wrote in opposition of the bill. They said that penalties for human trafficking are already severe, and that no evidence shows that increasing penalties would actually deter the crime.

“SB 14 legitimizes ‘Three Strikes,’ which has proven to be ineffective at serving public safety and has contributed to the mass incarceration of Black Californians,” the group wrote in opposition.

The ACLU California Action, California Attorneys for Criminal Justice and the California Public Defenders Association were opposed to the bill.

The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, city of Needles, California District Attorneys Association and California Police Chiefs Association were in favor.

Senate Bill 14 passed the Senate 39-0 Sept. 13, and passed the Assembly 80-0 Sept. 11.

The bill temporarily died after failing to pass the Assembly Public Safety Committee July 11, with two votes in favor and six assembly members not voting. 

Assemblymembers Tom Lackey (R-Palmdale), a former California Highway Patrol sergeant, and Juan Alanis (R-Modesto), a former sheriff’s sergeant, were the only aye votes.

During the hearing, Assembly Majority Leader Isaac Bryan (D-Los Angeles) said that despite engaging in conversations with Grove, he found that Grove’s “righteous intentions” did not come with a solution.

“All evidence has shown that longer sentences don’t actually stop things from happening. All they do is increase our investment in systems of harm and subjugation at the expense of the investments that the communities needed to not have this problem to begin with. The same communities that have the highest rates of human trafficking are the same communities that have the highest unemployment rates, highest rent burdens, lowest rate of small burdens owned,” Bryan said.

Public uproar to the decision caused the committee to pass it two days later. Bryan did not vote on the bill the second time around, but posted a Los Angeles Times column that said public debate over the bill was based on a false question of supporting pedophiles or protecting children.

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