Scott Statement on No Vote on S. 178

May 19, 2015
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-03) issued the following statement on his No vote on S. 178, the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015:

“Human trafficking is abhorrent and a form of modern-day slavery.  And as a co-chair of the Congressional Human Trafficking Caucus, I am committed to ensuring that we end this illegal trade and provide the necessary support for survivors.

“S. 178 incorporates numerous bi-partisan human trafficking bills that I strongly support and will significantly help curtail this illegal trade and provide additional support for survivors.  Unfortunately, the bill includes a provision that unnecessarily expands mandatory minimum sentencing.

“Mandatory minimum sentences have been studied extensively and have been found to distort rational sentencing systems, discriminate against minorities, waste money, and often require a judge to impose sentences that violate common sense. To add insult to injury, studies have shown that mandatory minimum sentences fail to reduce crime.

“Under section 118 of this bill, the advertising of sex trafficking will result in a mandatory penalty of 10 or 15 years, depending on the circumstances of the crime. There is no doubt that many of these individuals prosecuted under this provision of the bill should receive long prison sentences, but in some cases a mandatory sentence of 10 or 15 years may not be justified.

“This is particularly troublesome when you consider the possible scope of defendants who could be prosecuted under this provision of the bill. Notably, the prohibition on advertising does not only apply to the sex trafficker who places the ad, or the employee who accepted the ad, but also includes those who benefit financially from the ad.

“That category would include all of the employees of the ad company, including the receptionist or the computer guy, everybody whose paycheck indirectly comes from the payment for the ad, and an employee who may have seen the ads or read in the paper that the company publishes some questionable ads but decided to look the other way.  They should be held responsible for their complicity and many of their actions may warrant a sentence of 15 years or even more, but certainly not all of them.  The judge should have the discretion to consider all the facts and the culpability of the particular defendant.  Instead, this provision of the bill unnecessarily takes that discretion away, and requires the judge to impose a 10 or 15 year sentence regardless of whether that sentence makes any sense or not.

“Mandatory minimum sentences didn't get into the criminal code all at once but one at a time, each one part of an otherwise good bill.  If we expect to get rid of mandatory minimums, we have to first stop passing new ones like this.

“This bill contains a new mandatory minimum that someday will require a judge to impose a sentence that violates common sense. Therefore, I voted No.”

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