On October 20, 2020, Alexia Tomlinson of the CSE Institute, along with Ann Michael of the Pennsylvania Human Trafficking Advocacy Work Group and Catharine Kessack of The Valley Against Sex Trafficking hosted an advocacy day to educate and promote the importance of passing House Bill 2170 (“HB 2170”) in the Pennsylvania General Assembly. Speakers included Shea Rhodes, Director and Co-Founder of the CSE Institute, Representative Joanna McClinton, Natalie Proud, Associate Program Director for the Covenant House in Pennsylvania, and Greg Rowe, the Director of Legislation and Policy for the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association.
Introduced by Representatives McClinton and Tarah Toohil , HB 2170 is intended to bring Pennsylvania’s laws “into the twenty-first century” according to Shea Rhodes. Primarily, HB 2170 also disaggregates our prostitution statute to properly identify trafficking conduct. The bill seeks to amend § 3011(a)(1) of our trafficking law by adding “patronizes” to the list of acts that constitute sex trafficking. This proposal would bring Pennsylvania state law in line with the federal trafficking law. Consequently, the proposed legislation would signify that targeting sex buyers who are responsible for “what drives the market for the sex trade to exist or account for the harms, both physical and emotional, that are inherent to those in prostitution,” which the current law does not do.
Further, Rep. Joanna McClinton states that “House Bill 2170 will eliminate that recidivism penalty and make sure [victims of trafficking] are always facing a misdemeanor of the third degree so that they will not face the inside of a state correctional institution for being a victim of trafficking.” For more information on the intricacies of HB 2170, please see the CSE Institute’s printable resource guide.
HB 2170 Advocacy Day included a variety of speakers with backgrounds ranging from lawyers to politicians to program directors. As with all change, collaboration will be key to legislative reform of our prostitution laws. Survivors need the voices of professionals in criminal justice, social services, and policy work to support them in achieving justice. Greg Rowe emphasized the role of prosecutors unanimously supporting victims of trafficking. Training all criminal justice stakeholders emphasizes a true intent for victim protection. A united front in passing HB 2170 will target buyers and work to eliminate the demand for sex from victims of trafficking. Simply put, according to Natalie Proud, “Passing HB 2170 will allow for law enforcement and prosecutors to have the ability to charge these predators properly including jail time and financial penalties.”
Progress happens when people speak out. Representatives are meant to serve the best interests of the people, but if the people don’t voice their opinion, representatives won’t know what is best. Voicing the need for victim protection is essential for modern progression of the criminal justice system. The Pennsylvania General Assembly needs to know the public support for HB 2170. Please contact your local representative to voice your support. To find your local representative, click here. Please reach out to us if you would like a sample advocacy letter to send to your representative.