Unterman Drops Bill To Reclassify Child Prostitutes; Seeks Counseling And Therapy For Those Under Consent Age

January 21, 2010 9:53 am

by Icarus · 26 comments

There was a time at the beginning of the last decade where the term “compassionate conservative” had some promise. While it was completely bastardized as an excuse to offer bigger government, I think this bill by Rene Unterman embodies what it should have meant.

Unterman seeks to move those arrested for prostitution who are under the age of 16 into a counseling and treatment program instead of putting them into the criminal justice system. Though that may open her (and those who support this bill) to charges of being “soft on crime”, her logic appears sound.

This bill decreases the age of prostitution,” said Unterman. “Sixteen-years-old is the age of consent in Georgia and anyone who is less than 16 will not be charged with prostitution. We consider then a victim, not a prostitute. They need care and counseling.”

Unterman said her bill would help create a “system of care,” for the girls, “while educating the public and those who come in contact” with the young girls. It would impact girls getting pimped out on the streets, as well as girls working in massage parlors.

“We want to recognize what is wrong and get them into care,” Unterman said. “If you do it before hand, it is less costly.”

It does seem logical that if a person in georgia cannot legally consent to having sex before the age of 16, then they can’t commit a crime for agreeing to sell sex, either. More importantly, if these teenagers are moved into the criminal justice system at such a young age, the odds of them ever getting out of it are virtually nil.

Kudos to Senator Unterman for her continued efforts to help solve the often overlooked problem of child prostitution in Georgia.

polisavvy January 21, 2010 at 10:13 am

These poor children are victims. I sincerely hope that bill passes and that these children do receive the help that they so desperately need. There does not appear to me to be anything “soft on crime” about this one, either. Victims should be treated as victims, and criminals should be treated as criminals. Thank you for sharing this with all of us.

ByteMe January 21, 2010 at 10:21 am

Surprised they’re not being thrown on the “sex offenders” list given the brains in the legislature.

polisavvy January 21, 2010 at 10:22 am

Exactly, but maybe people are starting to wake up.

ieee January 21, 2010 at 12:25 pm

That’s funny.

Georgia’s legislature in its entirety doesn’t have enough sense and not even the beginning of enough guts to even admit that their Sex Offender laws were a mistake, let alone fix them. They will make it all worse before they even discuss making it better. You can (and will) bet your income on it.

Remember, when it comes to Sex Offender laws, they don’t need to understand any facts and they know better than ALL the experts do. And BTW, I don’t see any reason why that wouldn’t apply to any field or subject the legislature considers. It’s a psychological issue after all.

polisavvy January 22, 2010 at 12:05 pm

Okay ieee, I get your point. I guess we can all hope that the legislature will awaken to all the problems involving these children as well as the Sex Offender laws. You are correct about the psychological issue; however, psychologists cannot make and pass laws so we are dependent upon the legislature to that for us. I guess you can say that we are at their mercy.

Jeremy Jones January 21, 2010 at 12:43 pm

sex offenders list —

I had the same thought. I like the idea of this bill, I hope it is supported. I also hope they start rescinding the stupid laws they have passed recently regarding the sex offenders list and limitations, however, that would take legislatures with backbone and principles. Good luck finding enough of those to get something passed.

Bucky Plyler January 21, 2010 at 10:42 am

Icarus, thank you for your comments and support of this bill. Child prostiution is a major problem in Ga., and Sen. Unterman has not been afraid to try to deal wit these issues. May her tribe increase !

Ken in Eastman January 21, 2010 at 10:49 am

This makes so much sense, I was amazed it has not already been done. Then I remembered we were discussing government.

GAModernWhig January 21, 2010 at 12:22 pm

My only worry about this legislation is handing over to pimps the line “if you’re under 16 you won’t go to jail”. Its a strong recruiting tactic to increase the number of child prostitutes. Like with most legislation this one will be all about execution, not the bill itself. I sincerely hope its affective. There is no use punishing the victims, that never helps society.

Bucky Plyler January 21, 2010 at 3:11 pm

When laws are enforced on the pimps for the sex slave trading (that currently exists), then your worry will be diluted.

The Comma Guy January 21, 2010 at 12:59 pm

If you are 16 or under and charged with a crime, you go to Juvenile court and the matter is handled there unless the matter is sent to the Adult system for prosecution. I would think that such actions (charging the children forced into prostitution) by a Solicitor or District Attorney would get front page coverage and public humiliation and shaming. Have there been instances of this happening but not getting picked up in the media?

Additionally, will this bill change the handling of the case or is this a change to the Juvenile Code as to what happens when a child is adjudicated delinquent?

PFJ January 21, 2010 at 2:55 pm

Prostitution harms between 250 and 350 girls in Georgia each month — and those are conservative estimates — according to research commissioned by A Future. Not A Past., the Juvenile Justice Fund’s statewide campaign to stop the prostitution of children in Georgia. The same study found prostitution harms more girls in Georgia on an average weekend night than are killed in car accidents in a year. This is a growing problem in Georgia, and the Internet is making it worse. These exploited girls should be treated as victims — not criminals. This legislation is another step in the right direction for our children.

polisavvy January 22, 2010 at 12:10 pm

Thank you for your stats. This is truly startling to me. I knew it was a problem; however, until you post, I had no idea it was that horrible. I sincerely hope and pray that something is done to help these poor children who have already been involved in this act, and that something is done to help others from falling in the trap. Thanks again for your prospective.

urbanvoice January 21, 2010 at 2:57 pm

We desperately need this legislation to go through. Atlanta has been identified as one of the 14 worst cities for sex trafficking and child prostitution by the FBI.

EmilyRC January 21, 2010 at 4:24 pm

This legislation is vital to Georgia!! These victims, which can add up to 350 monthly in Georgia, need protection. Georgia is already over crowded in their prison system. The prison system is not a set up to be a system of care to victims of Commercial Sexual Exploitation and should not be our solution to caring for these victims either. Mayor Franklin of Atlanta took a lead role in her zero tolerance policy of those buying minors, and hopefully Mayor Reed will not only follow in her foot steps but surpass them. Georgia can not be proud of how many minors are being exploited, but if they pass this legislation they can begin to change how they perceive the problem and their goals to eradicate it.

cashlock January 21, 2010 at 4:32 pm

Let’s make this happen so we can all rest easier knowing that our city DOES NOT STAND for the criminalization of child victims…give our cops some power to report these victims engaged in forced prostitution a chance at restortation and hope.

camimiller22 January 21, 2010 at 4:54 pm

The children being traumatized by being prostituted and THEN further traumatized by being arrested need to know they have been vicitmized and deserve care and treatment.

Our children need this legislation to go through!

Cousin Pat from Georgia January 21, 2010 at 5:27 pm

if these teenagers are moved into the criminal justice system at such a young age, the odds of them ever getting out of it are virtually nil.

True. But the odds of them getting out of the life after counseling aren’t good either. The socioeconomic factors that lead to such victimization also produce a high rate of recidivism.

This bill is a good idea, and a more efficient use of resources. Just make sure the agency that runs the counseling is robust and effective – most rehabilitation programs break down on that. Keep in mind that a program like this will take time to work, and the numbers probably won’t get to where you want them.

All that being said, this will be an easy program to play political football with and to put on the chopping block in the future.

Tinkerhell January 22, 2010 at 8:31 am

Dead on Pat.
To do it right would cost a siginificant amount of money which we are in significantly short supply of. I like the bill, pass it this year. But this alone isn’t going to solve the problem & nothing is going to solve it quickly.

tocallaghan January 21, 2010 at 5:33 pm

I like this bill, but I think the law needs to be consistent. For example, if your 17 and your charged with underaged possession of alcohol, your tried in adult court. Its ridiculous to be tried for an underaged offense in an adult court. Also if your 13-16, and you commit one of seven crimes, murder and armored robbery to name a few, your tried as an adult.

GOPGeorgia January 21, 2010 at 6:25 pm

With murder, the accused should be treated as an adult. It is an adult crime. Possession of alcohol, not so much. However, they should go after whoever provided the alcohol for contributing to the delinquency thereof.

tocallaghan January 21, 2010 at 7:06 pm

I agree agree with murder, but the other 6 crimes despite being very heinous don’t deserve 25-life for a 13 year old. But that is huge problem with our system, 17 year olds, and to a slightly lesser extent 18-20 year olds, are held to the same legal standard as any adult with out any of the rights.

jlynn January 21, 2010 at 8:45 pm

Rehabilitation, care is good. BEST way to get kids out of the cycle of endangerment is to lock up the S.O.B.’s who profit by putting them on the street for a very, very long time.

nv January 21, 2010 at 9:41 pm

Unterman’s legislation is imperative. With Atlanta being one of the busiest arenas for child sexual exploitation, with 250-350 girls a month being commercially sexually exploited in Georgia, we have to be diligent about stopping this. It is wrong, gruesomely exploiting children. Work has to be done to continue to raise awareness and stop sexual exploitation. We do not do that by criminalizing the victims of child sexual exploitation. This legislation helps to protect the children who are being sexually exploited, instead of exploiting them further by criminalizing them. We are thankful that Georgia is acknowledging that child sexual exploitation happens and getting tough on those who exploit our children in this horrific way. But this is only the beginning. We, the people, and our leadership have to get behind this with full force, and Unterman’s bill begins to do this.

Mozart January 22, 2010 at 12:57 am

De-criminalizing childhood prostitution. What a (non) swell idea.

So, what if teenage girls just start hooking on their own (no pimp daddy) because they KNOW they will not get arrested?

Celia January 22, 2010 at 10:03 am

This law, along with raising awareness are the things that are going to change the current exploitation situation. Young teenage girls are so vulnerable; thus allowing them to be taken advantage of. They need professional counseling…throwing them in the system is not the answer. While rehabilitation does cost a lot, it pales in comparison to the amount that would be spent with these young girls living their entire lives going in and out of the system because they were not properly treated to begin with.

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