Texas’ record on sex trafficking is under fire. A recent in-depth report claims it’s often the sex trafficking victims rather than the offenders who end up incarcerated.
A series of reports in the Texas Tribune highlighted the difficulties faced by those whose lives are harmed by sex trafficking.
One of the young victims who ended up incarcerated was Lena. The article highlighted how she became one of the youngest inmates in the Harris County Jail in Houston in the fall of 2016.
She was just 17 when she ended up locked up. She lived with two dozen women in a single room with no privacy and one bathroom attached to the wall.
However, Lena committed no crime. She was one of Texas’ sex trafficking victims.
She grew up in an abusive home and became the property of pimps who sold her for sex after she ran away from home.
The report said she ended up in jail because she had nowhere else to go. Texas’ other sex trafficking victims, many of them in their teens, have the same issue.
The Tribune report pointed out that while Texas throws money at operations to catch sex traffickers, it pays little attention to the victims. There is just one facility devoted to child sex-trafficking victims in Texas. It’s called Freedom Place and can house just 20 girls at any given time. The report said the facility will not accept kids picked up from the streets by police in the middle of the night.
Freedom Place is in Houston. There is no other facility in cities like Dallas or Fort Worth.
In the Lone Star State, the emphasis of the drive to end sex trafficking of minors shifted since the Texas Supreme Court ruling in 2010. The justices said domestic minors younger than 14 involved in prostitution must be considered victims rather than criminals. Subsequent legislation changed the label for young people charged with prostitution from “delinquent” to “child in need of supervision.”
The changes also allowed for these records to be sealed to protect the victims.
However, the Tribune investigation suggested Texas has a considerable way to go before the victims of sex trafficking are protected from jail.
If you have been charged with a sex trafficking crime or any level of involvement, you could be facing considerable time behind bars. Please contact our Fort Worth criminal defense lawyer at (682) 204-4066.