DERRY & RUSSO: California Dems Sent A Message: One Form Of Modern-Day Slavery Is No Serious Crime

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Progressives have a new message for the American people: sex trafficking of minors is not a serious crime. 

Six liberals on the California Assembly Public Safety Committee sunk to a new low as they led the Democratic majority in effectively killing a bill that would have categorized this crime as a “serious felony.” Introduced by Republican Shannon Grove, the legislation redefines sex trafficking of a minor as a “serious” crime under California law, ensuring that such violations would qualify for “three-strikes” penalties reserved for the most serious legal offenders. 

Liberal opposition held up the bill on the grounds that it wasn’t “perfect.” And though intense public pressure forced a re-vote that ultimately moved the bill forward, it is hard to move past the idea that Democrats and their allies are downplaying the dangers of modern-day slavery. The progressive left has gone so far in search of government programs and snake oil elixirs to treat “root problems” that liberals have lost sight of right versus wrong, good versus evil, and what communities want for their families: safety. 

Americans expect accountability for the abhorrent law breakers. The California legislation to redefine sex trafficking as the heinous crime that it is comports with sentiments from voters on both sides of the aisle, according to a recent poll that found 90 percent of Republican voters, 78 percent of Independent voters, and 68 percent of Democrat voters believe that human trafficking represents a major problem in the United States and not enough is being done to solve it. Accountability recognizes the depravity of the crimes committed and demands an appropriate sentence. 

Republicans have historically led the way in tackling some of the most pressing problems in our society and in nurturing a more just system that also keeps our families safe. With a moral compass rooted deeply in values that supersede situational ethics, conservatives demand accountability for offenders and back policies and politicians that support law enforcement and focus on rehabilitation.

The front-line responders to sex trafficking are, without doubt, our police and investigators in cities across the country. Any efforts to combat sex trafficking therefore must begin with well-trained, well-equipped police forces, a concept supported by 87 percent of Republicans who believe calls to defund the police are misguided and not effective or practical in the real world. Realistic leaders will recognize and meet the needs of police to track down sex traffickers.

The opportunity for Republican leadership is not merely limited to filling the void of appropriately punishing heinous crimes such as sex trafficking, however. The conservative base also overwhelmingly supports focusing on rehabilitation for low level crimes and addressing the needs of those who have ended up in bad situations and perhaps made even worse decisions. 

With hundreds of thousands of victims of the sex traffic trade in the U.S. alone, victims have often broken numerous laws ranging from prostitution and soliciting to elicit narcotic use and trade. For those cases where incarceration may be appropriate, more than 82% of Republicans believe the prison process should balance punishment and accountability with efforts to give incarcerated men and women the knowledge and skills to be productive and successful members of their communities when they are released from prison. Our laws should be designed to hold the most egregious offenders accountable while offering pathways to rehabilitation to those who have earned such an opportunity. 

Americans are frustrated with the criminal justice system in general, and they’re demanding conservative leadership to steer us to a more safe and decent society. Conservative voters in particular are dissatisfied with the status quo—69 percent of Republicans felt the criminal justice system is working either “not too well” or “not well at all,” according to polling commissioned by The Adams Project. The California Assembly Public Safety Committee vote last week demonstrates that the progressive left has lost their way — and their ability to respond to the most basic needs of a functioning society. The real call to action, however, is for conservative lawmakers to listen to their base and return us to balanced criminal justice policies that support law enforcement, demand accountability, and focus on rehabilitation.

Micah Derry is the President & CEO of The Adams Project. Frank Russo is the Associate General Counsel & Director of CPAC Center for Combating Human Trafficking.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller.