According to Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen law enforcement is changing their perspective towards a major crime.
“I think a lot of law enforcement for decades have not really understood what human trafficking is. We treated it like prostitution. We treated it like a victimless crime, two consenting parties, and that is just not the case, or at least it is a very very very small percentage of your prostitution cases. We now know through education and years of experience, human trafficking, this is slavery. This is modern day sex slavery that is happening here in Montana.”-Attorney General Knudsen
Within current Montana law an individual convicted of engaging in prostitution with an adult is to be fined $1000 or less and will spend no more than a year in prison, and a prostitute who is convicted of prostitution may be fined $500 or less or be imprisoned in the county jail for a term not to exceed 6 months, or both.
Attorney General Austin Knudsen has noticed an alarming trend as a result of the current prostitution penalties.
“What we also see is a lot of former drug dealers who have gotten out of the drug trade and have gotten into the human trafficking trade because they think it is safer and they think the penalties are less, and that’s really what we’re trying to get away from.”– Attorney General Knudsen
Elinor Smith from the University of Montana School of Journalism describes a bill that Montana law makers are currently working on to address human trafficking.
“House Bill 112 would make promotion of prostitution a human trafficking charge and divide the law into four categories that would be easier for prosecutors to prove, sex trafficking, aggravated sex trafficking, child sex trafficking, and labor trafficking. The bill would also raise the penalties for such crimes and remove loopholes for charges related to sex crimes against children.”– Elinor Smith
Montana Attorney General Knudsen gives his take on the bill.
“We have got to let the message be known to those in Montana who would prey on these innocent victims that if you do this and we catch you. You are not going to get a slap on the wrist. You’re not going to get a fine and a couple days in jail. You’re going to do some hard time, and this is going to be a felony.” – Attorney General Knudsen