- Issue 1 – January 2018, Volume 45

There Is No Such Thing as a Child Prostitute: Why Decriminalization Is Only the First Step in California

Comment by: Edrina Nazaradeh

45 PEPP. L. REV. 189 (2018)

Prostituted minors are victims of the deceitful schemes of pimps, traffickers, and Johns. While there is widespread agreement that these minors are victims, states have taken different approaches to addressing this heinous crime. Generally, states either prosecute prostituted minors or adopt Safe Harbor laws that grant prostituted minors immunity from prosecution. California joined the majority of states when it passed Senate Bill 1322. Effective January 1, 2017, this bill amended California’s Penal Code to grant children under eighteen years of age immunity from prosecution for prostitution.

This Comment argues that Senate Bill 1322 properly amended California law by aligning with federal standards and recognizing that prostituted minors are victims, not criminals. However, decriminalization alone falls short of its goal of better serving and protecting minor victims of prostitution. In the absence of a mechanism to keep victims off the streets and away from perpetrators–a function previously served by prosecution and juvenile justice programs–victims will not receive the protection and rehabilitation that they need. Consequently, this Comment urges California lawmakers to consider a comprehensive approach, and it proposes that victims be directed to secure safe houses with the option of entering long-term residential treatment centers. Further, perpetrators should face stricter penalties and be required to attend intervention programs that educate them about the devastating effect of their crimes.

This Comment concludes that California should amend its Child Welfare laws to direct victims to appropriate placements, impose harsher penalties on perpetrators, and implement programs that address recidivism.

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