AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — The district attorney in Androscoggin, Oxford and Franklin counties wants state lawmakers to decriminalize prostitution.

It’s time to acknowledge that “people who are caught up in the nightmare circumstances of human trafficking and sexual exploitation are victims” rather than criminals, Andrew Robinson told lawmakers.

The bill that went before a committee last week would put the focus on targeting human traffickers and those who pay for sex instead of those who engage in prostitution, the Sun Journal reported.

“The people who create the victims are the ones paying for sex and they are the ones who should be subjected to the criminal justice system,” Robinson told Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.

The bill’s lead sponsor, Democratic state Rep. Lois Galgay Reckitt, of South Portland, said the bill would keep prostitution “on the books” while creating defenses for the seller and more penalties for the buyer with the crime redefined as “commercial sexual exploitation.”

“Prostitution therefore is redefined as a buyer problem and a demand issue,” she said. “The prostituted person is a victim.”

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The bill also would establish a pilot program in Androscoggin County.

Not everyone thinks it’s a good idea. Dee Clarke, executive director of Survivor Speak USA, said it could encourage out-of-state pimps to bring prostitutes to Maine, where they would not face prosecution.

The bill has not faced any votes. A work session on the proposal will be held in coming weeks.

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