News & Events
Alumni Champion Tougher Sentences to Protect Minors
Three alumni from the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies traveled to Sacramento to advocate for tougher sentences against individuals who solicit sex from commercially exploited minors. Vivien Francis, Breyn Hibbs and Kathryn Whitlow created the “Unmasking Predatory Johns Coalition” in the hopes of changing the penal code so that offenders could face time in prison.
As the law currently stands, under penal code section 236.1 (c), men who solicit sex from commercially sexually exploited minors receive only a misdemeanor charge. According to some sources, many of the minors involved are trafficked into this industry and 75 % of them are controlled by pimps and gangs who force them to have sex for money. There is currently legislation in the works to punish pimps and gangs who sexually exploit children, but there is no equivalent law that targets the buyers, or "johns", of the problem. The proposed legislation change calls for these “johns” to be redefined as perpetrators of human trafficking, which would allow judges to decide whether or not the crime warranted time in prison. This new legislation also calls for all men found guilty of the commercial sexual exploitation of children to be required to register on the California Sex Offender's Registry under Megan's Law.
The group was successful in getting the proposed solution to the legislative council, where a bill will be written. The next step is to find a policymaker who is willing to introduce the new legislation to the floor, where members will have a chance to vote on it.
When asked about the experience, Whitlow says, “We all learned the ins and outs of lobbying and I firmly believe that I could now create a campaign around any issue and be successful in seeking a legislative solution. It was very exciting to participate in such a large system, but at the end of the day you realize that we are all part of this system and our voices can be heard.”