Last week, we hosted a panel discussion on sex-trafficking policies in Reason's Washington, D.C., office. We were a bit worried because we aimed to challenge conventional narratives about sex trafficing in America, which is a narrative many people are quite fond of, and some had threatened to come and cause a disturbance during the event. But that proved to be a bluff. The discussion not only went down with no issues, it elicited a lot of thoughtful questions and positive comments during a post-panel Q&A and reception, with quite a few people remarking that they had no idea the lengths to which the government was going to target not just traffickers but also sex workers, their clients, and anyone involved in prostitution in any way.
Joining me on the panel was Katie Hail-Jares, a board member for the Sex Workers Outreach Project and Georgetown University researcher, and Molly Gill, government affairs counsel with Families Against Mandatory Minimums. It was moderated by Lauren Galik, Reason Foundation's director of criminal justice reform, and Reason TV's Josh Swain filmed the event.
The full panel (minus the Q&A) is posted below. Don't have the time or inclination to watch it all? The following links will let you jump in at various points in the conversation:
• on new crimes and mandatory minimums created under the recently passed Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act
• on how federal mandatory minimum sentencing laws reflect the evolution of our moral panics
• on "Kate's Law," which would add a mandatory minimum for illegal re-entry into the U.S.
• on Backpage.com, New York's human-trafficking intervention courts, and how the increased focus on catching sex traffickers affects those willingly working in prostitution
• on Monica Jones and Arizona's now-defunct "prostitution diversion" program, Project Rose
• on Alaska madam Amber Batt, who was charged with sex-trafficking herself
• on what researchers know about minors engaged in sex work in America
• on whether current policies are effective at helping sex-traffickng victims
Elizabeth Nolan Brown:
• on the commonly cited stat that 300,000 U.S. children are trafficked for sex each year
• on the feds' steady ramping up of sex-trafficking penalties over the past 15 years
• on trends in state laws against sex trafficking
• on why people should care about tougher penalties for traffickers and "pimps"
• on "john stings" versus less police-focused policies for helping victims