- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 23, 2018

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - A Missouri bill would allow sex trafficking victims who have pleaded guilty or been convicted of prostitution to apply to have the conviction removed from their record.

The bill was heard Monday by the Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, the Columbia Missourian reported .

The proposal would allow people with a prostitution conviction to apply to have their records be expunged. The court would expunge their record if it finds the person was acting “under the influence of an agent,” such as in the case of sex trafficking.

Republican Sen. Ed Emery of Lamar asked how a court would be able to distinguish whether the applicant had been trafficked.

“If you have ever been involved in prostitution, be it forcefully or not forcefully, those individuals will have the opportunity to (apply to) have their records be expunged,” said Democratic Sen. Jamilah Nasheed of St. Louis, who sponsored the bill.

Christine McDonald was a victim of sex trafficking for 17 years and has a resulting felony prostitution conviction.

“Fourteen years out of the life, it’s still a barrier for me,” said McDonald, who testified in front of the committee Monday. “I’ve still struggled to find work. I still struggle about where I can live. People don’t want to rent to me because I have felony prostitutions.”

McDonald is now the director of advocacy, outreach and curriculum at the Restoration House of Greater Kansas City, a residential program for sex trafficking survivors.

“This could change not only my life, but dozens and dozens of victims across Missouri that have been trafficked and commercially sexually exploited,” McDonald said. “They would have opportunities to move forward with their lives and leave their past behind.”

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Information from: Columbia Missourian, http://www.columbiamissourian.com

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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