Safe Harbor 2011
On July 20, 2011, Minnesota passed Safe Harbor legislation, a public safety bill that includes protections for children who are commercially sexually exploited and clarifies that sexually exploited children are crime victims, not criminals. While the law did not include all of the initial language drafted by The Advocates, it is a significant step toward securing better protections for sexually exploited youth and providing for their needs, and builds on excellent efforts already in place in Minnesota. Read the bill here.
 
The 2011 law made six main changes to how the state protects sexually exploited children. The law:
  • Includes the definition of sexually exploited youth in Minnesota’s child protection code;
  • Excludes sexually exploited children under 16 from the definition of delinquent child;
  • Creates a mandatory first-time diversion from arrest for any 16 or 17 year old who has been exploited in prostitution (where the child meets the criteria);
  • Allows prosecutors to continue diversion or to proceed with Children in Need of Protection (CHIPS) petitions for 16 and 17 year olds coming through the system an additional time;
  • Increases penalties against buyers of sex with adults from $250 to a minimum of $500 and a maximum of $750. The revenue these fees generate will be distributed to law enforcement, prosecutors, and service providers to serve sexually exploited children; and
  • Directs the commissioner of public safety to work with stakeholders to create a victim-centered response for sexually exploited youth.
Certain provisions, such as the increased penalties for buyers of sex, went into effect in August 2011. However, recognizing that Minnesota’s juvenile justice and child protection systems were not yet equipped to meet the needs of children exploited through sex trafficking, the law delayed certain provisions from going into effect until 2014, giving time for appropriate response systems to be built and put in place for victims. In order to build this response system, the law directs the commissioner of public safety to work with stakeholders to create a victim-centered response for sexually exploited youth.