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New Florida Law Establishes 'Johns Registry' To Shame People Convicted of Paying For Sex

Fighting human trafficking is one of the top issues for U.S. Attorney Pamela Marsh.
Howard Revis via Flickr

Florida will soon strike up a so-called "John’s Registry" for people convicted of soliciting prostitution. It’s part of an effort to combat human and sex trafficking. The database has been endorsed by law enforcement who see it as a way to shame people who pay for sex, but some victim advocates worry it could sweep up people who’ve been trafficked themselves.

During a March hearing on human trafficking, Democratic Representative Kevin Radar asked a question:

“What would you want in the state of Florida to minimize or eradicate human trafficking?" He asked Pasco County Sheriff's Corporal Alan Wilkett. Wilkett replied, "going after the buyers.”

Wilkett sayscracking down on buyers could help address the problem, and one way to do that is through public shaming. 

The Johns registry is for people who are convicted of soliciting prostitution. It’s part of a new law that addresses human trafficking mostly in the form of sex trafficking. There’s no known figure on the number of people who are trafficked in the state, but Florida is one of the top referrals for calls to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

Plantation Democratic Senator Lauren Book has spear-headed reform efforts on it the issue and pushed for the inclusion of the registry over objections from victim advocate Christine Hanavan with the Sex Worker Outreach Project.

“There are many, many people who will not identify as victims of human trafficking who are going to be criminalized by this law," Hanavan said during a March legislative hearing.

After five years, a person can be removed from the database if they’ve not committed another sexual offense and only has one solicitation conviction. At one point during legislative hearings, the registry was removed from the House version of the bill, but later added back in.

The new law requires massage parlors to post signs about human trafficking and create policies for reporting suspected trafficking to law enforcement. This comes following a multi-county sting of massage parlors earlier this year that swept up New England Patriot’s Owner Robert Kraft. Book addressed that earlier this year.

 “As we see with Robert Kraft, People we know and respect commit crimes like this. Everyday, in our homes in our neighborhoods," she said. "People we know and respect do these things.”

Hotels, and other public lodging establishments have to train their employees on how to spot human trafficking and report it. This is the second year the measure was filed. Last year it failed over objections from the restaurant and lodging industry that opposed language allowing hotels to be sued. 

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Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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