/House passes bill to prevent children under 18 from being charged with prostitution

House passes bill to prevent children under 18 from being charged with prostitution

House Bill 571, which seeks to clarify and strengthen Mississippi’s laws on human trafficking, would also grant Child Protection Services more power to investigate and take custody of any children who have been sexually exploited. In an email, Speaker of the House Philip Gunn stated that “this problem exists all around us.” “I am proud of the House members for acknowledging the seriousness of this problem in Mississippi. We are working together in strengthening our laws to assist some of our most vulnerable citizens.” Rep. Angela Cockerham who heads the House Judiciary B Committee, defended Tuesday’s legislation. She said that the growing problem of the sexual exploitation and trafficking of minors across the country is alarming. Cockerham stated that “this is a serious problem in Mississippi.” “The incidences of human trafficking here are increasing, even in the past year.” The Department of Public Safety in Mississippi recorded 26 cases of human trafficking in 2018. This was in addition to state and local law enforcement. The numbers for the previous years are not yet available. House Bill 571, which clarifies that children under 18 can’t be charged with prostitution, would also provide treatment protocols, including money for therapy, to help those who have been sexually exploited. The law would also require law enforcement agencies to inform CPS about any child trafficked. CPS would also be required to train foster parents and social workers to help these children. Cockerham stated that all of these measures would make it easier to assist children who have been sexually exploited, and help Mississippi identify any other children at risk. Cockerham stated that children are now able to be charged with prostitution. It makes it more difficult for children to access the services they need when they are arrested under state law. A child who is likely to be charged will be less likely than a child to come forward for help.” Gunn hosted a one-day summit in Jackson on October 18 regarding human trafficking. “This legislation makes Mississippi a strong example of policy. We have every confidence that Mississippi’s practice will follow this policy and that victims will have better chances of recovery,” Sandy Middleton, executive Director for the Center for Violence Prevention in Mississippi, stated.