Council Approves Legislation to Address Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation
[COLUMBUS, OH] Columbus City Council is committed to ending sex trafficking and assisting victims with much-needed resources to begin the process of healing and recovery.
On Monday, September 27, 2021, Council approved ordinance 1663-2021 to amend the Columbus City Code Section 2307 to separate the offenses for buying and selling sex. The ordinance strengthens penalties for individuals charged with purchasing sex and distributes the fines paid for violation of this new provision into a Victims of Human Trafficking fund that will support shelter, medical treatment, and counseling services for victims of human trafficking.
“Historically, the consequences for prostitution have unjustly fallen on our neighborhoods and individuals who sell sex, instead of those that traffic and exploit them,” said legislation sponsor Councilmember Mitchell J. Brown. “This proposal focuses on additional accountability for buyers while providing support for those who are exploited.”
Ordinance 1663-2021 will take effect 30 days following tonight’s passage. The amendments included in this ordinance will recommend sentencing guidelines for individuals that purchase sex with the intent to reduce recidivism. Potential penalties include a $300 fine for the first offense with required attendance at an educational or therapeutic diversion program. The legislation recommends that a second offense receive a $550 fine and ten days in jail. An offender convicted of their third and subsequent offenses could be subject to an $800 fine and fifteen days in jail. Franklin County Municipal Court judges and prosecutors will continue to have discretion when determining sentencing.
This legislation builds on Council’s efforts to reimagine public safety by increasing access to resources for victims of human trafficking. In July, Council approved nearly $500,000 in grants to human service organizations dedicated to supporting victims of human trafficking, such as the Salvation Army, Out of Darkness, 1DivineLine2Health, Sanctuary Night, and She Has a Name. Ordinance 1663-2021 extends this investment by capturing the fines paid by buyers to a newly created Victims of Human Trafficking Fund. These funds will be earmarked to support programs that work with victims of human trafficking.
“While the grants provided to these vital community-based organizations will help to support our most vulnerable residents now, the legislation approved tonight will generate an ongoing funding source to sustain these supportive services,” said Brown.
Ordinance 1663-2021 includes a commitment to review the impacts of this legislation and re-evaluate the legislation after it has been in effect for two years.