Our view: Attorneys made right call; will Legislature?Washington County Attorney Pete Orput and his colleagues from around the metropolitan area did the right thing Feb. 26 by announcing plans to take vulnerable youths out of the criminal justice system and classify them as victims.
Washington County Attorney Pete Orput and his colleagues from around the metropolitan area did the right thing Feb. 26 by announcing plans to take vulnerable youths out of the criminal justice system and classify them as victims.
The move clears up a conflict in state law that considers juvenile prostitutes both delinquent and victim. The county attorneys who announced the change were right to draw a line.
The children who find themselves caught up in these dangerous lifestyles rarely know what they’re getting themselves into. Be sure: these are not adults capable of weighing decisions in a deliberate, logical manner. The people preyed upon by street pimps and exploited on many levels are children. Many come from deplorable home lives. Most are impressionable. And they’re almost always confused.
But make no mistake – they are children.
Any questions about whether child prostitutes go on to celebrate their lifestyle were quelled during a press conference announcing the change. Three courageous women – former prostitutes, all of them – took the podium to explain how the lifestyle destroyed their lives, kept them from their families and erased their childhood.
The change is welcomed, but now it’s time for the Legislature to follow suit.
A bill introduced in the House clarifies and recodes prostitution law provisions. Like the attorneys’ change, the bill also strips away the term “delinquent” or “offender” for children who have been caught engaging in prostitution.
At last check, the House bipartisan bill had 18 co-authors, but none representing the Woodbury area. There also is no companion bill in the Senate.
It’s worth reminding local lawmakers that, as Public Safety Director Lee Vague pointed out, prostitution is no stranger to this community.
For the state to remain out of step with this important change isn’t just being lazy. It’s uncompassionate.