AP: Kansas officials seek to change sex trafficking laws

1/19/2013

TOPEKA (AP) — Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and Attorney General Derek Schmidt said Friday that they want to crack down on sex trafficking and child sexual exploitation in the state with increased fines and penalties for those crimes.

TOPEKA (AP) — Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and Attorney General Derek Schmidt said Friday that they want to crack down on sex trafficking and child sexual exploitation in the state with increased fines and penalties for those crimes.

The proposal would increase the fines for those who purchase sexual services in Kansas, raising the penalties to felonies, Schmidt said. The changes are designed to put a spotlight on the issue and curb demand for illegal sexual services by increasing penalties.

"This proposal will significantly strengthen our ability to protect Kansas children from sex traffickers," Schmidt said. "It will put in place a strong foundation to support child victims and to break the cycle of exploitation."

The proposal would establish a fund to provide support to victims of human trafficking, paid for with the fines from people convicted of illegal sexual activity and human trafficking.

Kansas enacted its first human trafficking laws in 2005 when Schmidt was in the state Senate. However, those laws and Jessica's Law, which increased penalties on people convicted of sexual abuse, didn't address children ages 14 to 17, he said.

"This is not inconsequential conduct. This is about sexually exploiting Kansas kids. And this is a serious issue," the attorney general said.

The Kansas Human Trafficking Advisory Board was created three years ago to study the problems of forced labor and sex trafficking, and Schmidt's office is the lead entity. The board includes law enforcement personnel, prosecutors, victims of human trafficking and others with expertise in the field.

The proposal from Brownback and Schmidt is expected to be introduced in the Legislature in the coming weeks. Senate Vice President Jeff King said the measure speaks to protecting the dignity of human life.

"We must do all we can to protect our most vulnerable Kansans," said King, an Independence Republican and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Brownback said the state was working with the University of Kansas to gain more information and strategies for combating human trafficking, including examining policies that may encourage an environment where it can proliferate.

"With this important legislation, Kansas will take great strides forward in the fight against modern-day slavery," the governor said.

Brownback worked with the late Sen. Paul Wellstone, a Minnesota Democrat, on passage of federal human trafficking laws while serving in the U.S. Senate in 2000. The laws increased efforts to stop the importation of women from other countries who were forced to be sex slaves in the United States, as well as requiring the State Department to monitor nations that condone human trafficking and the potential for sanctions to be placed on those governments.

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