Vote No on Proposition 35: Human Trafficking

This is the sixth part of a series of posts analyzing California’s propositions:

What Proposition 35 Really Does

Proposition 35 is almost certain to be approved by California voters. It bans human trafficking. Who isn’t against human trafficking?

But there are actually a number of reasons to vote against Proposition 35.

More below.

Human trafficking is already banned by California law, of course. This is actually kind of obvious; it would have been a really incredible oversight if human trafficking was not previously illegal in California.

What Proposition 35 actually does is that it changes the current law. It increases criminal penalties for human trafficking.

What’s wrong with that, you might ask? The vast majority of Californians would support an increase in penalties for human trafficking.

The thing is that the federal government deals with human trafficking, not the state government. The legislative analyst states that:

Currently, human trafficking cases are often prosecuted under federal law, rather than California state law, even when California law enforcement agencies are involved in the investigation of the case. This is partly because these types of crimes often involve multiple jurisdictions and also because of the federal government’s historical lead role in such cases.

That is, because human trafficking often crosses state lines, usually the federal government deals with it. This is why there are only 18 individuals convicted of human trafficking in state prison, as of March 2012.

So this proposition handles something that’s not the state’s responsibility.

In addition, this proposition mostly deals with something that the typical voter has little knowledge about: proper penalties for criminal activities. Most voters have no idea whether the sentence enhancement of great bodily injury should be six or ten additional years in jail, which is one change this proposition proposes. I certainly don’t.

There are people who are qualified to set prison sentences. These are the experts and the lawmakers, who spend their whole lives studying these issues. People like you and me, who just spend a couple of hours (or even worse, seconds) reading about this proposition, are not. Prison sentences for criminal activities are – yet another – activity that would be best left to the legislature to deal with, rather than the broken proposition system.

Why to Vote Against Proposition 35

Proposition 35 sounds great. Punish human trafficking! Let’s do it!

But human trafficking is not handled by the state of California – it’s handled by the federal government. So Proposition 35 is mostly irrelevant.

Proposition 35 changes prison sentences for human traffickers. But sentences for criminals should be set by the experts and the legislature. They shouldn’t be set by voters who have only thirty minutes in the ballot box to vote for ten propositions, half of which they don’t understand.

Proposition 35 sounds too good to be true. It is.