The Alabama House of Representatives on Thursday approved legislation that would post pictures of men arrested for solicitation online to shame them into stop purchasing sex from sex workers, particularly women and children who have been trafficked.
House Bill 271 is sponsored by state Rep. Merika Coleman, D-Midfield, who serves on Alabama’s Human Trafficking Task Force.
“Prostitution is linked to human trafficking,” Coleman said. “We have passed this before, but it did not get out of the Senate.”
After an arrest, the Johns’ pictures will be released, Coleman said. Coleman argued that the state needs to attack the demand for sex workers in order to slow the trafficking of girls, women and boys into prostitution rings. The picture, such as a mugshot, would be taken by a law enforcement agency, Coleman said.
Coleman explained that this law is necessary because previous sessions of the Legislature, back when it was all-male, had forbidden the practice by state law.
State Rep. Ben Robbins, R-Sylacauga, asked: “If that person was found not guilty is there a way to redact the pictures?”
Coleman said no, adding that currently all persons who are arrested, except for the offense of solicitation, have their pictures released. Robbins said that posting the picture of a person who was arrested for this and other crimes harms those individuals who are not found guilty for the rest of their lives. They are not able to get jobs.
Coleman suggested that Robbins a separate piece of legislation.
“I would love to work with you on that,” Coleman said.
State Rep. Arnold Mooney, R-Indian Springs, said: “Those people who are trafficked in prostitution — they are the victims. We have got to do this to fight the problem we are having with trafficking in our state.”
“We have got to fight the demand,” Coleman said. “We have got to do more in Alabama to fight human trafficking.”
HB271 passed the House by a vote of 100 to 0. It now goes to the Senate for its consideration.
The Legislature will return to work on Tuesday for day 15 of the 2021 Legislative Session. This is the midpoint in the regular session as the 1901 Constitution of Alabama limits the regular session to no more than 30 days.