Amber Batts was sentenced to more than five years in prison after pleading guilty to sex trafficking in the second degree Monday afternoon. Batts is the former head of “Sensual Alaska”, a prostitution business that served people around the state.
Batts connected sex workers with clients who were pre-screened for safety concerns, then she took a portion of the fee. She already has two felonies on her record.
State Assistant Attorney General Adam Alexander prosecuted the case. He says the case was not about the morality or legality of prostitution.
“Our hope in prosecuting broader sex trafficking enterprises is to create a safer environment for individuals who are caught up as workers in that trade and in an environment that people feel comfortable disclosing when they’re being victimized,” Alexander says. “And unfortunately our experience working on the ground here in Alaska, more often than not the people who are working in the sex trade are victims of exploitation.”
Alexander says many participants in the sex trade are vulnerable and have experienced trauma.
But sex worker advocate Tara Burns says members of the industry are being prosecuted for actions that make the sex trade safer.
“So we work indoors instead of out on the street. And that is being called ‘having a place of prostitution’ now, which is felony sex trafficking in the third degree,” Burns says. “We share clients and we communicate with each other about clients to see if they’re safe – “Have you seen this client? Is he safe?” and that is now called a sex trafficking ring or a prostitution enterprise. And that’s felony sex trafficking in the second degree.”
Burns has worked in the industry for 20 years, and her organization Community United for Safety and Protection is lobbying to change the state’s laws. More than 30,ooo people have signed an online petition in support.
“We’re asking the Alaska legislature to repeal the new sex trafficking laws. We want to be able to go to the police to report crimes like sex trafficking without having to worry about being charged with felonies now instead of just prostitution.”
The laws passed in 2012. The human rights group Amnesty International recently adopted a resolution supporting the decriminalization of consensual sex work saying that it will make it safer for the workers.
- The City and Borough of Juneau Lands Committee will discuss a proposal to give Indian Point, also known as Auke Cape, back to the Auk'w Kwaan at its Oct. 23 meeting.
- Jeremie Shaun Tinney, 39, was sentenced to 220 days in prison and fined $3,000 for failing to stop for a peace officer, driving while intoxicated, and assault during the Dec. 3, 2016, incident.
- A lawsuit filed in federal court this week seeks to remove the residency requirement for people gathering signatures for state ballot initiatives.
- For the second time in two years, a Skagway political figure has been ordered to pay a fine for incomplete financial disclosures. Assembly hopeful Dan Henry failed to disclose substantial debt on his candidate paperwork. He will still be able to run for office in the upcoming election.