MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota judges frequently failed to impose mandatory fines on convicted sex traffickers and buyers, according to a TV station’s analysis of court records.
KARE-TV analyzed sex trafficking convictions from 2011 to 2017. Records show that 118 of 196 convicted sex traffickers were never ordered to pay the fine. That means 60 percent of convicted sex traffickers avoided the state-mandated fine.
Funds raised by the fines are meant to provide support services to survivors of sex trafficking and to train police and prosecutors to better combat sexual exploitation. The lack of fines means the anti-trafficking programs have lost at least $250,000 in the past seven years, according to the station’s analysis.
“We are supposed to be trying to stop trafficking behavior through these assessments and then help people recover,” said Republican Sen. Michelle Benson. “We expect prosecutors and judges to follow the law as passed by the legislature and signed by the governor.”
Retired judge Robert Small, who is now the executive director of the Minnesota County Attorneys Association, said judges may not be aware of the fine requirement.
“Based on my conversations with county attorneys, unfortunately it is an unawareness issue,” Small said.
Court records from 2001 to 2017 show that courts failed to impose mandatory fines on sex buyers about 51 percent of the time, the TV station reported.
“It is frustrating that some of these perpetrators are not being held accountable and that there are or could be more funds available to help more victims,” said Beth Holger, executive director of The Link MN, which provides support for young sex trafficking survivors.
Holger said the organization doesn’t have enough funding and resources to serve everyone that needs help. The group provides resources such as housing, education and counseling.