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July 24th, 2009
09:24 AM ET

Legal loophole allows Rhode Island minors to strip

A shocking legal loophole discovered by authorities in Rhode Island.

While teens can't pump gas or climb ladders on the job because of protections in workplace laws, there is nothing on the books keeping 16- and 17-year-olds from stripping – as long as they're home by 11:30 on school nights.

Authorities discovered this loophole during a police investigation into a 16-year-old runaway found working at a strip club in Providence.

Rhode Island State Representative Joanne Giannini is working to change the law. She spoke to Kiran Chetry on CNN’s “American Morning” Friday.

Kiran Chetry: You heard about the case of the 16-year-old – how did this all come to the attention of police and legislators?

Joanne Giannini: Well, there was a newspaper article about a 16-year-old young girl from Boston who was found by local police and a rescue worker and she had told them she was stripping in a club and turns out she was 16-years-old. And, basically, they couldn't charge the perpetrators because there's no law banning minors from working in adult entertainment zones.

Chetry: One of the interesting things is that there are laws on the books regarding underage people working in general. The lieutenant governor said she was just jumping through hoops to get her 17-year-old to be able to be a camp counselor with the working papers it requires. So how could this slip through the cracks?

Giannini: This slipped through the cracks. We also have another loophole where prostitution indoors is [legal], which makes both these loopholes extremely disturbing and both need to be addressed. And in this next legislative session, when we go back from recess, I hope to introduce legislation to ban minors from working in live performances with sexual conduct.

Chetry: Some would say is it really needed – the law? Meaning that it seems like there are a lot of problems and for this 16-year-old runaway a lot of things went wrong before we even got to the point of her being stripping at this club. Some of the reporting I read said she actually did produce an ID showing she was 20. Even if there was a law on the books, she would have found a way to get around it anyway.

Giannini: But the fact remains that the laws need to be in place and if there was one that's one too many and we are responsible to make sure the laws are there to protect our young women and our young men.

Chetry: And how far along are you on this legislation and also, as you said, there's this other odd loophole in your state that prostitution is illegal outdoors but legal indoors. Are you trying to combine both of those to toughen up the laws on the sex industry?

Giannini: The bill for the indoor prostitution passed the House overwhelmingly and it is stalled in the state Senate. We are on recess right now. When we return in the next few weeks, I plan on introducing and trying to push through a separate bill, which would ban minors from working in the adult entertainment zone and explicitly stripping or live performances involving sexual conduct.

Chetry: Back to the issue of the fact that this 16-year-old ended up in this unfortunate situation – ran away and being taken advantage of. Is there anything you are working toward to help support people and young people who find themselves in these situations?

Giannini: Sure, we do. We have many organizations here to support and to help and many social service providers who are willing to help them. This young woman was brought here by a 40-year-old who allegedly has been working with prostitutes and he brought her here from Boston. This certainly isn't something that we want to see happen to our young girls or our young men. So, these are all issues that we are looking at here and we all have to work together to stop this industry.

Filed under: Controversy
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