By STEPHEN KALIN, Associated Press

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ Connecticut lawmakers are considering at least three bills that would increase penalties for pimps and “johns,” in the state’s latest effort to address homegrown human trafficking.

The General Assembly’s Judiciary Committee heard public testimony Monday on two of the bills, which advocates portray as a continuation of an effort that began last year with a ban on advertisements for sex that depict minors.

One of this year’s bills would add “force” and “fraud” to the definition of coercion used in human trafficking, thus strengthening prosecutors’ ability to prosecute pimps. It also would make it a felony to knowingly solicit prostitution from a minor or a victim of human trafficking.

The other bill would give courts the authority to seize assets of convicted pimps derived from the sexual exploitation of a minor.

Supporters said the legislation would create some of the toughest laws in the nation against human trafficking and could be a model for other states to follow in the fight against the sex slave industry.

One of the proposals would expunge prostitution convictions from the criminal records of people identified as victims of human trafficking.

At a news conference before the hearing, proponents of the legislation said most victims of human trafficking in Connecticut are not foreigners but young women and men from the state who are lured into forced prostitution.

“They are victims, and they should be treated as any other abused victim and re-victimized by being treated as a criminal,” said former House Speaker Jim Amann.

As many as 300,000 children are at risk for sexual exploitation each year in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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