Advocates Push for Law to Decriminalize Sex Trade for Teens

Advocates hoping to decriminalize teen sex crimes are urging Gov. David Paterson to sign a bill that would offer young people assistance in getting out of the sex trade, instead of jail time.

The "Safe Harbor for Exploited Children Act" would not hold children under age 17 criminally liable for sexually-based crimes like prostitution. The bill has already been passed in both houses of the legislature.

The bill's co-sponsor, Queens Assemblyman William Scarbourough, joined Rachel Lloyd, director of a non-profit that works with sexually exploited girls, on the steps of City Hall.

She says the teens have been very involved in getting the bill through the legislature.

LLOYD: The girls have been really hardcore advocates and come up to Albany every year and it's really been their efforts more than anyone else's that have put it to the point where it unanimously passed in the Senate and the Assembly.

REPORTER: John Feinblatt, criminal justice coordinator for the city, says the legislation does not do enough to help the teens - it only offers them help, but does not ensure that they accept it.

Paterson is expected to review the bill. No word yet on whether he will sign it.