SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

November 20, 2013

Our view: 'Get-tough' law on sex buyers is all talk, no action

Two years ago this week, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick signed into law an Act Relative to The Commercial Exploitation of People.

The law, which went into effect in 2012, targeted those who prostitute young women for their own financial gain, often exploiting their dependence on drugs.

The law also took aim at the other parties to the sex trade: the buyers of sex. They would now risk higher penalties than ever: up to two-and-a-half years behind bars and a minimum fine of $1,000, or both. The penalty for soliciting minors was increased to a maximum 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. The law specified that such charges could not be swept under the carpet, as so many criminal cases are in Massachusetts, by rubber-stamping them as “continued without a finding.”

Yes, it was time to get tough on the “johns,” whose money fuels the business of prostitution. So proclaimed the bevy of politicians who lined behind Patrick as he signed the bill: Attorney General Martha Coakley, House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel Conley.

The author of the bill, state Sen. Mark Montigny of New Bedford, called it “the most important piece of legislation I have passed since joining the Senate.”

If only passing a law could end a crime like sex trafficking. We all know that’s not possible, though politicians might like us to think otherwise.

But it might help, at least a little bit, if the same politicians who pat themselves on the back when a law is passed would make sure it is enforced once the signing ceremony hoopla dies down on Beacon Hill.

But key provisions of the Act Relative to The Commercial Exploitation of People are not being enforced, according to a special report by the New England Center for Investigative Reporting.

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