TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Nia H. Gill and Senator Loretta Weinberg that would ensure children under the age of 18 arrested for and engaging in prostitution or who are victims of human trafficking are treated as victims of sexual exploitation rather than as criminals unanimously passed the Senate Judiciary Committee today.
“The State must ensure protection and a safe environment for sexually exploited children who are charged with prostitution or who are victims of human trafficking,” said Senator Gill (D-Essex). “By treating these sexually abused children as victims and not criminals, we will be able to provide them with the services they need and deserve.”
The bill (S-2599) would allow for an affirmative defense to criminal charges. It would also provide appropriate services to these victims including shelter, care, counseling and crisis intervention.
“This measure would ensure that necessary support structures including counseling and crisis intervention — as well as relocation, if necessary are available to those children who have been victims of sexual exploitation in the form of prostitution,” said Senator Weinberg (D-Bergen). “Providing programs for rescue and rehabilitation rather than the stigma of a prostitution charge on their records is essential to offering these children a meaningful future.”
In another step to protect victims today, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed legislation sponsored by Senator Weinberg and Senator Linda R. Greenstein (D-Middlesex/Mercer) that would impose bail restrictions on persons violating domestic violence restraining orders. This bill (S-2626) would require those charged to post the full amount of bail or to have a bail bond secured by real property equal to the amount of bail plus $20,000. This is a change to the current system which requires posting ten percent of a bond to be released.
The bills now head for the final vote in the full Senate.