Fixing Alaska’s Sex Trafficking Law

In 2012 Alaska passed a new sex trafficking law that redefined most things prostitutes do as sex trafficking. The second person to be charged under it was an independent adult sex worker who was charged with trafficking in the fourth degree: “aiding or facilitating” her own prostitution. Shortly after that CUSP advocates tried to help report a man to the police who was threatening Fairbanks sex workers with arrest if they did not pay him $1000, but police and an Assistant Attorney General could or would not give a victim who wanted to make a report immunity from being charged with trafficking herself.

Her lawyer explained the situation.

Her lawyer explained the situation.

Things that were defined as sex trafficking under the 2012 trafficking law included aiding or facilitating prostitution (including your own, and potentially including harm reduction workers who provide condoms) and having a place of prostitution, including your own prostitution. The first and fourth cases to be charged under the sex trafficking law were against sex workers who were accused of sharing space and information about clients, something that sex workers do to increase their safety. Sex workers who became victims of violent crime became even more reluctant to report it to the police when they had been sharing a hotel room or information with other sex workers, out of fear of being charged with trafficking each other.

Karen

A solution was proposed in House Bill 349 and then as an amendment that became Sections 37-40 of Senate Bill 91. When Governor Walker signed SB91 yesterday this section became law, but he immediately put removing sections 39-40 on the agenda for special session, citing concern from a religious group that these sections essentially decriminalized sex trafficking.

Here is the language that was added:

10 (c) A person does not institute, aid, or facilitate prostitution if the person
11 (1) engages in prostitution in violation of AS 11.66.100(a) in a location
12 even if that location is shared with another person; and
13 (2) has not induced or caused another person in that location to engage
14 in prostitution.
(Read the whole bill here: http://www.akleg.gov/basis/Bill/Text/29?Hsid=SB0091Z)

This was added to the third and fourth degrees of trafficking (aiding/facilitating and having a place of prostitution) but was not added to trafficking in the second degree (having a prostitution enterprise) or the first degree (forcing people into prostitution or involving minors).

Tr34

Removing these sections would once again leave sex workers and sex trafficking victims unable to report violent crimes out of fear of being charged with trafficking themselves or each other.

The Good News: Situational Immunity from Prostitution Charges

Yesterday Governor Walker signed Senate Bill 91, which included a section providing situational immunity for who are making a good faith report that they were a victim or witness of a list of several crimes.

We expect this to increase reporting of crimes like robbery, assault, and sex trafficking and ultimately improve public safety. It is our hope that this will also lead to the resolution of one or some of the 11 currently unsolved murder, missing person, and suspicious death cases of sex workers in Anchorage.

Here is the specific wording of Section 36:

Sec. 36. AS 11.66.100 is amended by adding a new subsection to read:
05 (e) A person may not be prosecuted under (a)(1) of this section if the
06 (1) person witnessed or was a victim of, and reported to law
07 enforcement in good faith, one or more of the following crimes:
08 (A) murder in the first degree under AS 11.41.100;
09 (B) murder in the second degree under AS 11.41.110;
10 (C) manslaughter under AS 11.41.120;
11 (D) criminally negligent homicide under AS 11.41.130;
12 (E) assault in the first degree under AS 11.41.200;
13 (F) assault in the second degree under AS 11.41.210;
14 (G) assault in the third degree under AS 11.41.220;
15 (H) assault in the fourth degree under AS 11.41.230;
16 (I) sexual assault in the first degree under AS 11.41.410;
17 (J) sexual assault in the second degree under AS 11.41.420;
18 (K) sexual assault in the third degree under AS 11.41.425;
19 (L) sexual assault in the fourth degree under AS 11.41.427;
20 (M) sexual abuse of a minor in the first degree under
21 AS 11.41.434;
22 (N) sexual abuse of a minor in the second degree under
23 AS 11.41.436;
24 (O) sexual abuse of a minor in the third degree under
25 AS 11.41.438;
26 (P) sexual abuse of a minor in the fourth degree under
27 AS 11.41.440;
28 (Q) robbery in the first degree under AS 11.41.500;
29 (R) robbery in the second degree under AS 11.41.510;
30 (S) extortion under AS 11.41.520;
31 (T) coercion under AS 11.41.530;
01 (U) distribution of child pornography under AS 11.61.125;
02 (V) possession of child pornography under AS 11.61.127;
03 (W) sex trafficking in the first degree under AS 11.66.110;
04 (X) sex trafficking in the second degree under AS 11.66.120;
05 (Y) sex trafficking in the third degree under AS 11.66.130; or
06 (Z) sex trafficking in the fourth degree under AS 11.66.135;
07 (2) evidence supporting the prosecution under (a)(1) of this section
08 was obtained or discovered as a result of the person reporting the crime to law
09 enforcement; and
10 (3) person cooperated with law enforcement personnel.

Support Senate Bill 21!

We need your help to get SB21 passed!

Senate Bill 21 would allow people in Alaska’s sex trades who are the victims or witnesses of crimes like murder, sex trafficking, or assault, to make reports to the police without being charged with prostitution.  SB 21 is an important step towards enfranchising members of our community into Alaska’s promise of equal protection under the law for everybody and improving public safety by addressing violent criminals who start out by preying on our population.

Currently SB21 is still awaiting scheduling in the Senate Judiciary committee.  You can email Senator.Lesil.McGuire@akleg.gov  or call  (907)-465-2995 and tell her to schedule SB21 for the Senate Judiciary right away!  Tell her the safety of marginalized Alaskans must not be left behind!

You can also email all of the politicians who will be hearing about this bill soon – their email addresses are at the bottom for  you to copy and paste easily.  Tell them:

- It is not consistent with our Alaskan values to allow criminals to target our most vulnerable community members with impunity.

- Please add extortion, coercion, robbery, sexual assault of a minor, and possession or production of child pornography to the list of crimes that victims or witnesses could report without being charged with prostitution.

- Please vote yes on SB21!!!!

Send your emails to the bill sponsor, Senator Gardner, and to us so we can add them to our packet of support:

Senator.Berta.Gardner@akleg.gov

sextraffickingalaska@gmail.com

Also send your emails to members of the Senate and House judiciary committees:

Senator.Lesil.McGuire@akleg.gov
Senator.John.Coghill@akleg.gov
Senator.Mia.Costello@akleg.gov
Senator.Peter.Micciche@akleg.gov
Senator.Bill.Wielechowski@akleg.gov
Representative.gabrielle.LeDoux@akleg.gov
Representative.wes.keller@akleg.gov
Representative.neal.foster@akleg.org
Representative.bob.lynn@akleg.gov
Representative.chariesse.millett@akleg.gov
Representative.matt.claman@akleg.gov
Representative.max.greunberg@akleg.gov
Representative.kurt.olson@akleg.gov

Budget

The Community United for Safety and Protection opposes any budget cuts on the most vulnerable Alaskans.  The state budget should not be on the backs of the drug addicted, the elderly, the disabled, and the down on out.

Instead, you should consider reallocating  $578,239, the yearly budget for the Special Crimes Investigative Unit (a part of the Alaska Bureau of Investigations).  Its “main purpose” is to “locate and rescue juvenile victims that are being forced to work as prostitutes in the commercial sexual exploitation of children.”  However, in its 25 months of investigation, the SCIU has yet to investigate a case resulting in any charges of trafficking a minor.  In fact, no one has been charged with trafficking a minor in Alaska since 2009 (people have been charged with making child pornography and with trying to pay for sex with fictitious minors – those are federal cases investigated by the FBI and Anchorage PD).

Instead of using the sex trafficking law to target the people they were intended to, the fund has been primarily used to charge marginalized adult women in the sex industry under AS 11.66.110-135 for sex trafficking themselves.   In its first year, everyone charged with trafficking was an alleged prostitute who was charged with prostitution of themselves in the very same case they were charged with trafficking (“aiding or facilitating” their own prostitution or having a “place of prostitution”).  At the end of 2014, four out of the seven total trafficking cases were against sex workers and none of them involved minors. The Department of Law has not yet responded to a January 15, 2016 records request for 2015 cases.

Although the SCIU is also tasked with investigating sex trafficking, SCIU officers have both refused to take reports from sex workers and have followed up on such reports in threatening and highly sexualized manners.  We consider this type of response to crime victims of any age, especially minors, incredibly inappropriate and we hope you do too.

It is incumbent upon you as our representatives to scrutinize this budget item and be responsible to the health and welfare of the most vulnerable Alaskans are not sacrificed.

 

Arbitrary treatment of sex trafficking victims accompanies broad definition of sex trafficking.

 

The State Troopers have two recent sex trafficking cases – notably neither were investigated by the Special Crimes Investigation Unit and in both cases Troopers were able to investigate without contacting the victims via the fraudulent pretext of a prostitution sting.  We hope the Special Crimes Investigation Unit, tasked with rescuing sex trafficked children at a cost to Alaska of $578,239 per year, will take note and cease prostitution stings under the guise of rescuing victims (in the 25 months and over 1 million dollars of their existence, they have yet to charge anyone with trafficking a minor).

The first case happened in Wasilla: Troopers responded to a report of a suspicious vehicle and discovered that prostitution had allegedly occurred.  They arrested the sex worker and charged her with prostitution.  They arrested the customer and charged him with soliciting prostitution.  They arrested the sex worker’s roommate, who she had given money to for the electric bill, and charged him with sex trafficking.  The sex worker/victim’s name was included in all the charging documents and in news articles about the case.  Like so many other Alaskans, she will most likely now face stigma and discrimination in housing and employment that will negatively impact her employment opportunities outside of the underground economy. (Charging documents here.)

The second case happened in Fairbanks: Fairbanks PD responded to a report of an overdue rental car.  Upon discovering men, drugs, money, and cell phones, they called the Drug Enforcement Unit at the State Troopers.  The officers became concerned about women who were known to be with the men and went to a hotel room where they found a woman who reported that she was being beaten and robbed by one of the men who took all of her earnings, gave her drugs, and was so violent that she was afraid to leave him.  She was not charged with prostitution.  In charging documents she was referred to by her initials (which we’ve redacted in the linked charging document to make her less recognizable) and newspapers didn’t name her either.  (Charging documents here.)

While Alaska state law doesn’t distinguish between these two situation, Alaska State Troopers do: in one case the police arbitrarily decided that somebody was a victim and therefore deserving of having their privacy protected.  In the other case the police arbitrarily decided that the sex trafficking victim was not deserving of having their privacy protected.  Was it the age difference that led officers to protect the identity of and not charge the younger worker?

There’s arbitrary enforcement of laws and arbitrary treatment of people who are in the sex trade whether by choice, circumstance, or coercion.  Everybody should have their privacy protected.  Everybody should have their rights protected.

Arbitrary policy leads to corruption in enforcement.  Arbitrary vice laws have been called seeds of police corruption.

We need clear policy to guide the state in respecting the rights of crime victims.

 

Action Alert for SB21!

 

Time is running out for Alaskan sex workers and sex trafficking victims.

Alaska Senate Bill 21 needs a hearing and an affirmative vote NOW!   Please call or email Alaska Senator Judiciary Chairwomen, Lesil McGuire today and ask her to schedule Senate Bill 21 for a Senate Judiciary hearing and hold a vote! SB 21 would allow anyone in Alaska’s sex trade, whether by choice, circumstance, or coercion, to make police reports about violent crimes without the fear of being charged with prostitution!  Please don’t leave Alaskan sex trade workers and sex trafficking victims behind!

Senator.Lesil.McGuire@akleg.gov    (907)-465-2995

 

Sample message:                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

Please Schedule Senate Bill 21 for a Senate Judiciary hearing and hold a vote ASAP! SB 21 would allow anyone in Alaska’s sex trade, whether by choice, circumstance, or coercion, to make police reports about violent crimes without the fear of being charged with prostitution!  Please don’t leave Alaskan sex trade workers and sex trafficking victims behind!

 

Text of Bill

 

00                  SPONSOR SUBSTITUTE FOR SENATE BILL NO. 21                                                          

01 “An Act relating to immunity from prosecution for the crime of prostitution.”                

02 BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF ALASKA:                                                     

03    * Section 1. AS 11.66.100 is amended by adding a new subsection to read:                         

04            (e)  A person may not be prosecuted under (a)(1) of this section if the                           

05                 (1)  person witnessed or was a victim of, and reported to law                           

06       enforcement in good faith, one or more of the following crimes:                       

07                      (A)  murder in the first degree under AS 11.41.100;                    

08                      (B)  murder in the second degree under AS 11.41.110;                    

09                      (C)  manslaughter under AS 11.41.120;                                    

10                      (D)  criminally negligent homicide under AS 11.41.130;                    

11                      (E)  assault in the first degree under AS 11.41.200;                               

12                      (F)  assault in the second degree under AS 11.41.210;                    

13                      (G)  assault in the third degree under AS 11.41.220;                                         

14                      (H)  assault in the fourth degree under AS 11.41.230;                    

15                      (I)  sexual assault in the first degree under AS 11.41.410;

01                      (J)  sexual assault in the second degree under AS 11.41.420;                    

02                      (K)  sexual assault in the third degree under AS 11.41.425;                    

03                      (L)  sexual assault in the fourth degree under AS 11.41.427;                    

04                      (M)  sex trafficking in the first degree under AS 11.66.110;                    

05                      (N)  sex trafficking in the second degree under AS 11.66.120;                    

06                      (O)  sex trafficking in the third degree under AS 11.66.130; or                            

07                      (P)  sex trafficking in the fourth degree under AS 11.66.135;                    

08                 (2)  evidence supporting the prosecution under (a)(1) of this section                       

09       was obtained or discovered as a result of the person reporting the crime to law                           

10       enforcement; and                                                                                       

11                 (3)  person cooperated with law enforcement personnel.                    

 

http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_bill_text.asp?hsid=SB0021B&session=29

 

Senate Bill 21

Current and former Alaskan sex workers, sex trafficking victims, and allies are strongly in support of Senate Bill 21.

Senate Bill 21 would allow people in Alaska’s sex trades who are the victims or witnesses of crimes like murder, sex trafficking, or assault, to make reports to the police without being charged with prostitution.  SB 21 is an important step towards enfranchising members of our community into Alaska’s promise of equal protection under the law for everybody and improving public safety by addressing violent criminals who start out by preying on our population.

“Protection from prosecution for prostitution is an important element to the ongoing safety and rights of victims of crimes,” said the sister of an Alaskan sex worker.  “This is an important bill that enhances the rights of victims to have honest and forthright relationships with law enforcement.  It allows all citizens no matter their access to employment opportunities protection from violent offenders, without fear of repercussion.”

Currently when sex workers are the victims of violent crimes, we do our best to warn each other of the perpetrator.  In a recent example in Fairbanks, a woman posted a Backpage ad warning fellow escorts of a man with a gun who had robbed her: http://sextraffickingalaska.com/without-access-to-the-justice-system-we-warn-each-other-of-violent-criminals/  Since the most marginalized of sex workers often do not have access to these warning networks, it is these vulnerable workers who are left to bear the brunt of violent perpetrators not currently addressed by our justice system.  It is not consistent with our Alaskan values to allow criminals to target our most vulnerable community members with impunity.

We are asking members of the Senate Judiciary to add a few crimes to the list that people in the sex trade could report without being prosecuted for prostitution: extortion, robbery, coercion, sexual assault of a minor, and child pornography.  Extortion is, in our experience, the most common felony committed against us.  Crimes like sexual assault of a minor and child pornography, while not a part of our industry, are sometimes learned of by sex workers and it is important that we be able to report them to the police without facing charges ourselves.

 

Denied Justice: Years After Butcher Baker, Alaska Continues to Endorse Violence Against Sex Workers

For Immediate Release

In August and September of 2014, the Community United for Safety and Protection spent several arduous weeks reporting a man who was threatening and attempting to extort sex workers in Fairbanks to the Anchorage Police Department, the Fairbanks Police Department, the State Troopers, the Alaska Bureau of Investigations, the former governor’s Choose Respect coordinator, and the Office of Special Prosecutions.  (Read more about that, including email transcripts, here: http://www.vice.com/read/alaska-declares-open-season-on-sex-workers-922)  After some media attention and meetings with Parnell’s office, the State Trooper’s Special Crimes Investigative Unit obtained search warrants and found the perpetrator, Jase Connors.  Connors, who has previously blogged about a girlfriend breaking up with him over his abusive behavior and the life or death religious war he is engaged in (http://firefighterjase.blogspot.com/), is said to have expressed hatred and more threats toward women in the sex industry to police.

Connors was charged with felony attempted extortion, felony impersonating a police officer, and misdemeanor impersonating another person in a grand jury indictment.  Last week the prosecutor, who has previously referred to sex workers as pieces of meat (https://twitter.com/THEecowhore/status/633384945411448832?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw), and Connors reached a plea agreement: 30 days in jail.

“If the victim was anybody other than a sex worker he would have gotten more time,” said Cindy, a local sex worker.  “They had to do something to show they were trying to stop the situation, but because the victim was a sex worker they did the very minimum they had to do.  Sex workers are seen as less than people.  I think you get more time for abusing an animal.”

“I am outraged  by the reporting and I’m outraged by the statements made by the defendants attorney,” said Maxine Doogan.  “I’m outraged by the state’s actions to plea him down to the lowest possible sentence and essentially the special prosecutor agreeing with the defense’s claim that she was a valid target for him.  He was convicted of a crime against the state instead of a crime against a person.”

In a classic example of Alaska’s rape culture, the News Miner mentioned the victim’s profession five times in their eight sentence article and actually suggested that the perpetrator had good intentions when he was impersonating a police officer to threaten and extort local women.  Previously the News Miner has chosen to publish the names of women charged with prostitution but withhold the names of men charged with prostitution.

“I was reading it and I was like, if the victim was a nurse would they have to say that so many times?  Is that to take away from what happened?  To make the victim less than?  What was the point of that?  If something happened to a woman and she wanted to report a crime she would be less likely to do so [after seeing the article] because she wouldn’t want to be villainized in the paper and the public eye.  Who wants to go through that?  This is the problem,” said Cindy.

“It’s not only about when someone from the sex work community comes forward to report being a victim,” said Maxine Doogan, “it’s about what all people who are sexually assaulted and raped go through when considering reporting to the police they’ve been a victim is being called a whore by the press, by  defendants, and then the public who’s representative agrees to the lower punishment because our lives our not valued as much.”

This treatment of Alaskan victims of any type is unacceptable.  CUSP invites all Alaskans to join us in setting a new standard by calling for accountability of the Attorney General’s office and the Department of Public Safety.

The Community United for Safety and Protection is a group of current and former Alaskan sex workers, sex trafficking victims, and allies working towards safety and protection for all people in Alaska’s sex trade.  CUSP members are currently in Juneau lobbying to criminalize police sexual misconduct and amend the sex trafficking law.

All the news!

Our event for the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers was awesome! The social justice committee at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship donated the space, and it was perfect. Here’s all the media, in case you missed some:

An article in the Atlantic about the research and Alaska’s issues in general: http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/12/alaskas-prostitution-law-isnt-working/383818/

Real investigative reporting in Alaska!: http://www.alaskacommons.com/2014/12/17/dangers-sex-work-alaska-state-helping-hurting-sex-workers/

Our three minutes of fame on KTVA: http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/56440869 (we’re about 3 minutes in)

And channel 11: http://www.ktuu.com/news/news/organization-hopes-to-improve-alaska-sex-workers-safety-legal-climate/30232750

Did you see us on the Laura Flander Show yet? Tits and Sass called it the most honest sex worker documentary of 2014! Here’s the link in case you missed it: http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Alaskas-Sex-Worker-Struggle-20141212-0018.html

Terra wrote a preliminary report about her research. Most dramatically, it shows the difference between the way “the system” treats sex workers and people who the law classifies as sex trafficking victims. Those classified as victims of sex trafficking are turned away from emergency shelter, sexually assaulted by police officers, and don’t have their reports taken by police officers at a much higher rate than other sex workers. Download the report here: http://sextraffickingalaska.com/pdfs/AKSWR.pdf

You can give us money now! We’re still working on a Kickstarter or something similar (any recommendations?) but for now you can walk into any Credit Union 1 and make a deposit into the account for Community United for Safety and Protection. Help us get to Juneau, get a phone number, get our own crisis centers, and change the world!