NewsCovering Kern County


Human trafficking survivors push for bill to create stricter penalties for human trafficking

"Maybe I would have felt safe."
Posted: 5:52 PM, Apr 05, 2022
Updated: 2022-04-05 23:33:50-04
Human Trafficking (FILE)

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Dozens of human trafficking survivors and advocates from up and down the state of California pushed for a bill that would create stricter penalties for human trafficking.

The bill that would achieve this started right here in Kern County.

Every case is different, but at the moment, the bill states on average people can serve from up to 12 or 20 years in prison for human trafficking depending on if the trafficking includes sexual conduct or a minor, but law enforcement officials and victims said it’s not enough.

“The first trafficker that broke her jaw is actually free, the second trafficker that my daughter testified against, could be out in three years. I strongly do believe that you [should] pass this bill so that other families I work alongside do not have to go through what I have to go through,” said Sylvia.

Sylvia was just one of many who went up to give their support. For her, it was personal, as her daughter was a victim at just 13 years old.

The average age for human trafficking victims is 11 to 14 years old.

Odessa Perkins, human trafficking survivor from Kern County, who is now an intervention counselor also spoke about what this bill could mean for victims.

“Maybe if it had been, maybe I would have felt safe and I would have reported it. Don’t I and all of the victims that are coming after me deserve to be free?”

Under California law, serious and violent offenses include crimes such as kidnapping, rape, and threats among many others, but human trafficking is not under that lengthy list.

If this bill passed not only would human trafficking be legally considered a violent and serious offense, but this means a trafficker case could also be under the three-strike law.

“Historically the three strikes law was that if you had certain crimes that you committed, specifically crimes of violence, after the third strike it was a life in prison sentence,” said Dustin Contreras, Co-director of Kern Coalition Against Human Trafficking.

Contreras said that the law has already been trimmed down in California, but it still would help deter traffickers. Despite the countless supporters like Contreras and his organization, there were some that opposed it.

“Good afternoon my name is Adriana Griffith, I am also a survivor of human trafficking and I am also formerly incarcerated; I was in San Joaquin County and I am in strong opposition of this bill, thank you.”

According to the bill documents, those who opposed it, like the Free to Thrive Organization, said “victims and survivors of human trafficking are often misidentified as perpetrators and arrested for human trafficking. Therefore, this bill will hurt victims and survivors, and it will not prevent traffickers from recruiting, grooming, and trafficking more victims while prior victims serve out long sentences on their behalf.”

Contreras said he sees the arguments against it but does not believe it oversteps the penal code.

“It wasn't adding anything that was unnecessary because human trafficking is a crime of violence.”

Of the three senators on the public safety committee, Nancy Skinner did not vote, Scott Wiener voted against it and Rosilcie Ochoa Bogh voted in favor of it.

Senator Shannon Grove then petitioned a reconsideration which is now the next step.

23ABC In-Depth

23ABC is taking an in-depth look at the numbers regarding the issue here in California.

According to Human Trafficking Hotline, in 2020, there were more than 1,300 human trafficking cases reported in the state.

Of that number, 902 of the victims were adults, and 268 of them were children.

Additionally, more than 1,100 of those trafficked in 2020 were female, and 155 of them were male.

Lastly, sex trafficking made up 1,025 of the more than 1,300 cases reported that year.