State Rep. Jefferson sponsors landmark prostitution bill
From press release
House Bill 6195, sponsored by local state Rep. Chuck Jefferson (D-Rockford), passed out of the House Judiciary II-Criminal Law Committee March 22, bringing law enforcement one step closer to cracking down on individuals who promote and seek prostitution.
“As state representative, public safety is my top concern,” Jefferson said. “I have met with police officers, neighborhood watch groups, and business owners on the issue of prostitution in the southeast portion of downtown Rockford. It is a problem that has grown in time and will not go away without a combination of police work and serious attention to the causes of prostitution, including demand.”
Jefferson’s legislation bill will derive funding for law enforcement and social services through increased fines on customers of prostitution, and on human traffickers or “pimps.” Under this new measure, violators will be required to pay $1,000 rather than the former $200, if found guilty.
House Bill 6195 contains measures to allocate half of the collected fine to the municipality that made the arrest. The other half will be deposited into the Violent Crime Victims Assistance Fund, which is administered by the Department of Human Services (DHS). DHS will then use the funds to award grants to non-governmental organizations for support services provided to prostituted people and victims of human trafficking. Jefferson explained that support services may include shelters, child care, counseling services, employment and education assistance, and other resources.
Anna Johnson, coordinator of the Kishwaukee Corridor Weed and Seed, said: “In spite of the state’s budget crisis, this bill creates an independent funding stream for municipalities to go after this issue and assist victims. I am looking forward to working with Rep. Jefferson, and other community stakeholders, to learn how the Rockford area can benefit most from this bill. I hope we can devise ways to not only reduce crime levels, but also provide opportunities for victims of human trafficking and prostitution so they can leave that violent and abusive situation and begin to lead productive lives.”
Jefferson has consistently brought crime and safety issues, including prostitution, into the public arena. In November, he held a Human Trafficking Seminar with La Voz Latina and DHS, to help social workers better identify and assist victims. At the state level, Jefferson supports legislation designed to increase victim’s rights, stimulate the economy, and create jobs. Locally, Jefferson has been collaborating with a newly formed “Prostitution Task Force” led by the Kishwaukee Corridor Weed and Seed. Other members on the committee include representatives from the Winnebago County State’s Attorney’s Office, Rockford Police, City of Rockford administration, social workers, local business owners, and concerned residents.
H.B. 6195 now moves to the House floor for further consideration. For more information about Jefferson’s legislation or committees, call (815) 987-7433.
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