A group of legislators reintroduced a bill that would prohibit charging minors for prostitution. The bill, Senate Bill 245, garnered bipartisan support.

In an email statement to The Badger Herald, Wisconsin State Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, said the bill would make it easier for children to reach out to the criminal justice system if they were being trafficked.

Under Wisconsin law, those children could still be prosecuted for prostitution if it was found that they were given money for sex work.

According to The Cap Times, the bill was originally introduced in 2019 but failed to make it through the assembly.

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The bill also said if the court determines that a consent decree or deferred prosecution agreement will serve the best interests of the person being prosecuted and will not harm society, a court cannot enter a consent decree under the Juvenile Justice Code or a deferred prosecution agreement under the Juvenile Justice Code or adult criminal statutes.

Legislators such as State Sen. LaTonya Johnson, D-Milwaukee, have rejected the notion that this bill legalizes sex work. Instead, Johnson said this bill lets children seek the services and counseling they need without fear of repercussions, according to the Cap Times.

Darling said children are 13 years old, on average, when they are trafficked for the first time, and homeless children are at an even higher risk.

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According to Shepherd Express, Wisconsin is ranked sixth in the nation for human trafficking cases per state. In particular, Milwaukee is a hub for human traffickers.

This bill can help end the cycle of abuse, Darling said.

“The monsters who force children into sex trafficking will no longer be able to use the threat of prosecution for prostitution as a way to keep kids in a cycle of abuse,” Darling said.