2019: #FemaleNOTFeemale #GAHB218 #GAHB234 #RaiseTheAgeGA #GAHB440
February 2019 was a busy month for Sherri Jefferson and the African American Juvenile Justice Project. The #FemaleNOTFeemale initiative has engaged in advocating for the enactment and passage of Georgia House Bill 281, which adds penalties for pimps and panderers of child sex trafficking victims.
We are also pushing for stricter penalties against purchasers – aka ‘Johns’ or buyers of persons for sex.
Another major accomplishment, for more than a decade, we have advocated both nationally and locally for legislation to stop prosecuting children as prostitutes. Georgia House Bill 234 is a major piece of legislation in this area. Special thanks to members of the assembly to include Rep. Chuck Efstration, Rep. Calvin Smyre and Rep. Bert Reeves for bi-partisan support.
We requested passage with language that would not further victimize children by subjecting them to restrictive custody by the Department of Family and Children Services or court-ordered mandatory trauma services.
One of our goals under FemaleNOTFeemale is that children are not court-ordered or subject to custody in restrictive safehouses or programs. Our advocacy proved to be worthwhile.
The language of the bill will give clear directions to all service providers and law enforcement. Children are not court-ordered. So, from arrest, they are offered short term treatment options.
Further, we sought language that would define ‘short-term’ and the exact time each victim would be subject to the Department of Family and Children Services for treatment. The Bill last version defines short term as seven (7) days. We also seek diverse service providers and an open call for organizations who are culturally sensitive to the needs of Blacks [African Americans] and afro-Latina victims.
Moreover, our advocacy will also prevent children from being arrested, charged, and prosecuted as prostitutes and we pushed for a new age requirement – children are those under the age of 18 not sixteen.
We did not stop there! FemaleNOTFeemale advocated to Raise the Age of Georgia children subject to criminal prosecution from ages 17 to 18 to align with the rest of the country and our research regarding mental and psychology development. House Bill 440, if passed, would address that concern. Special thanks to Rep. Mandi Ballinger for sponsoring the Bill.
For all measures, we seek provisions that could grandfather (retroactive/pushback in time) these benefits. Alternatively, we seek to permit prosecutors and courts to consider these laws in pending cases where persons were arrested before the passage of HB234 and HB440.
Finally, but not least, we had a wonderful day at the capital partnering with New Vision MSK [My Sisters Keeper] for their Black Women and Girls Advocacy Day #bwaga. An extraordinary event, where black women and girls share their concerns about the needs of the community and advocate for laws to help address these issues.
This year, BWAGA pushed for a commission to study issues impacting black girls in the state. Yes, a black woman ran for governor. However, across this state, black women and girls suffer disproportionately from deprivation, delinquency, sex trafficking, and the school-to-prison pipeline. AAJJP supports these goals.
We were joined by other African American female legislators and advocates, including Dr. Nadine Richardson of No More Martyrs. She focuses on mental health and wellness. Carla Taylor of Women on the Rise, which is an advocacy group that organizes events around the issues of criminal justice reform, the state of black women beyond the wall, and returning citizen into society. Ms. Fenika Miller of New Vision hosted the event. Sherri Jefferson presented about sex trafficking and HB 234.