In light of a high-profile sex trafficking trial in Milwaukee, three state legislators from Wisconsin’s largest city released a statement Tuesday pledging legislative action to combat future human trafficking.
State Rep. LaTonya Johnson, D-Milwaukee, state Rep. Evan Goyke, D-Milwaukee, and state Sen. Nikiya Harris-Dodd, D-Milwaukee, applauded both the district attorney and assistant district attorney of Milwaukee County for bringing to justice Roy Kennard Weatherall Jr., who a Milwaukee jury found guilty of 14 counts of sex trafficking, sexual assault, child abuse and witness intimidation last week.
The three lawmakers also pledged action in the upcoming legislative session to combat what has become an increasingly notorious national issue. Goyke said none of the six bills proposed last legislative session that pertained to human trafficking passed.
“One of the reasons the state will be different in this legislative session is that the attorney general’s office is a critical partner in the fight against human trafficking … that person, either Susan Happ or Brad Schimel, will bring a perspective and a voice to the discussion,” Goyke said. “Even though things were stalled last session, there’s a new set of players and huge turnover in the Legislature.”
The legislative strategy for the trio will be to focus law enforcement attention on criminal organizations behind the trafficking and divert victims from the criminal justice system to preventative and recovery programs, which Goyke said are largely funded by the Wisconsin Department of Children and Family.
“We, especially for juveniles, do not believe that those individuals who are coerced to sell themselves should face criminal convictions,” Goyke said. “Interestingly, think of the dollars we would spend prosecuting and incarcerating a young woman as a prostitute versus the cost of a stable house, job, foster care or programming. Almost always, that incarceration is far more expensive than the alternative.”