In Florida, children can no longer be prosecuted for prostitution. With the Safe Harbor Act implemented in January, children should be sent to safe houses where they will receive treatments and protection from previous pimps. Though the Safe Harbor Act is a positive measure, there is a need for more safe houses for trafficked children. According to the Department of Children & Families, there are only two safe houses in the state with a total of 12 beds, but this article claims that Florida is one of the worst places for trafficking children.
Because of the lack of safe houses trafficked children needing a place to stay will be forced to live either in group homes, foster homes, or facilities for abused and abandoned children. Foster homes place other children at risk as trafficked children will continue to be targeted in these homes. Many pimps see this lack of housing as an opportunity for more profit. Since it is easier to get into these types of facilities sometimes pimps will hire assistants to get someone to go inside these facilities to exploit children. One example was at the Joshua House foster care facility where a woman went undercover to manipulate children. She had false documents which allowed her to get into the foster care program. Once admitted, she convinced three girls between the age of 13 and 14 years old to go to a McDonalds where they were kidnapped and drugged. The three girls were placed in a sex house where they were abused then thrown out on the streets. The woman was soon arrested when attempting to do the same act again.
There is a big difference between a safe house and a group home. A safe house is more secured and more intense when dealing with residents. There are no visitors allowed at any time. Natasha Nascimento from Department of Children and Families states “That’s because the girls are brainwashed and traumatized; they’re loyal to their pimps and want to go back”. Nascimento read from a 14 year old victim’s journal, where the girl had written about how it is okay to love the ones that abuse us. With the lack of housing and treatment, trafficking children have little chance of recovering.
Though the Safe Harbor Act increases charges from $500 to $45000, these increases are nothing compared to what pimps are making from trafficking. According to DePaul University, studies shown that the median for pimp earnings were $350,000.link Pimps are working fast to get children off the street without the fear of being charged. These children need a safe environment but they also need the right treatment. They also need to have a stable environment and not constantly having to move because of the lack of space .
A safe harbor law is a start by not letting children being prosecuted, but there is a lot of work to be done to keep these children off the streets. In order to be successful with this Act, there needs to be more safe houses and treatment facilities.