Kaffie, how does this bill differ from Bill 304 which you worked on a year ago?
“It does some of those same things, and it’s a step forward, but it’s not as far as ultimately we’d like to go. Under this bill, a child being prostituted can still be arrested as a prostitute. But now they can use an affirmative defense, which allows them to not have the prostitution charges.
“Across the top, I think it’s a good bill. It moves us forward and walks a nice compromise ground. In some ways, legislation is about incremental progress.
“Another good thing is that it does allow victims to access crime compensation funds. It also means for anyone keeping a place of prostitution, that is if someone is knowingly allowing prostitution, they can be criminally charged, and the fine is higher now. It may have been around a $2500 fine before, and now it can go to $100,000.
“It also mandates that the Georgia Public Safety Training Center offer training to law enforcement to recognize and deal with sex trafficking. So there are some really, really good things in this bill.”
Kaffie, you testified before the House Judiciary Non Civil Committee to help this pass the House. Will you testify before the Senate?
“Yes, I’ll be there.”
Who would you say was the lead sponsor of this bill outside the legislature?
“The Georgia Women for a Change did the heavy lifting on this bill. Of course Majority Whip Ed Lindsey is the legislative sponsor, but Ga. Women for a Change and Executive Director Stephanie Davis have been the ones coordinating everyone who would testify, and getting people to sign on for it in the community. They were showing the legislators where the support exists in the community for the bill, and explaining why this is a good bill for legislators who may not have had in-depth knowledge on the subject.
“There’s quite a lot of good, powerful support for this issue. The fact that the House floor broke into applause when it passed is reflective that it’s got strong support.”
Judge Phillip Jackson had this to say about the bill:
“I’m still studying the bill, but I will say at this point that it’s another arrow in the quiver–something else we can deal with, and it’s also educating the public about its priority on this problem, which is a good thing.”
Kaffie McCullough had mentioned to me that that if someone knowingly allows prostitution they can be criminally charged, and the fine would now be up to $100,000. Do you think that will become a deterrent?
“Well, that’s a criminal matter, and unfortunately, when people do things like that, they don’t think they’re going to get caught. But from the standpoint of being able to punish people, and get money for the state to be used for useful things, and to keep them from doing it in the future, yes it could be a help.
“But I’m not dealing with the adults, and I’m going to have problems with the children no matter what.
“My concern and focus is on what’s in the best interests of the children. If you can remove someone from harming the children, that’s good, but I don’t think anyone thinks this will go away with that law.”
From the standpoint of the mandate that there be law enforcement training in CSEC (Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children), how do you think that will affect the problem?
“In the long run, that’s good, because like I said, it sets some priorities in how law enforcement is trained, how to intervene and how to handle CSEC cases. It makes them aware of it, and any time you make one person aware of it– it’s a multiplier effect, and they’re going to make other people aware of it.”
As awareness on this issue grows, do you think it might slow down the number of cases coming before you in the courtroom?
“Unfortunately it might increase the number. But that could be a good thing because there are cases out there now that probably aren’t being detected. Once you educate people you are able to treat them. We might have children out there being victimized that we don’t know about.
“We all know it’s out there, but it’s not being reported. So in the short term effect of something like that, the number goes up.
“So be it. We’ll make the best of it–we’re trying to do some good. I might argue that if the law does what it’s supposed to do, in the short run we might see cases go up, but hopefully in the long run it will go down.
“It might prevent other kids from being caught up in it. We’re already involved in it, we’ve got a lot of kids in it, and they’re going to need help. But if you’re looking at it in the long run we’re looking at reducing that number.