House Passes Legislation to Combat Human Trafficking
(BOSTON) – State Representatives Christopher M. Markey (D-Dartmouth) and Paul A. Schmid (D-Westport) yesterday joined their colleagues in the Massachusetts House of Representatives in unanimously passing legislation aimed at fighting human trafficking in the Commonwealth. The bill creates crimes for human trafficking offenses such as trafficking persons for sexual servitude and trafficking persons for forced services.
“Our primary job as elected officials is to secure the safety of folks across the Commonwealth,” House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo said. “No one should have to experience the horrors of being sold into a life of exploitation. This anti-human trafficking legislation will help our law enforcement officials crack down on instances of this unconscionable practice in Massachusetts.”
“This bill will give our law enforcement professionals the tools needed to address human trafficking offenses in Massachusetts,” said Representative Eugene L. O’Flaherty, House Chairman of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary.
“The passing of this bill by the House is an important step towards eradicating Human Trafficking in our Commonwealth,” said Attorney General Martha Coakley. “The fact remains that people of all backgrounds are being exploited for sexual servitude and labor right in our own backyard. We remain one of four states without a law against human trafficking, and we hope this bill will finally change that. We commend the House leadership, especially Speaker DeLeo and Chairman O’Flaherty, for sending a strong message that this brutal exploitation will not be tolerated.”
"This bill is an extremely important piece of legislation that we will pass in this session,” said Representative Schmid. “Human trafficking is a serious issue in the Commonwealth that doesn't take place out in the open in the public realm and is extremely difficult to nail down. This legislation gives our law enforcement the necessary tools to tackle these serious offenses."
“It would be unconscionable to ignore the seriousness of human trafficking and the severe, often irreparable harm inflicted on individuals, families, and our society as a whole,” said Representative Markey. “This legislation exemplifies the fundamental purpose of government: to protect the people, especially our most vulnerable citizens.” Markey added, “it is also another example of the common-sense, bipartisan reform that’s taken place at the State House in the past 5 months, and I’m proud to be a part of it.”
The bill creates the crimes of trafficking persons for sexual servitude and trafficking persons for forced services, each of which carries a punishment of imprisonment for up to 15 years or a fine of up to $25,000, or both.
The legislation also creates the crimes of trafficking for sexual servitude or forced services on a person under 18 years-old. Each crime carries a penalty of up to life in prison.
Additionally, the bill increases protection for children by raising the age required to be considered a minor in the context of engagement in sexual conduct. Previously, only those under 14 years of age had qualified as minors in this context. This legislation increases the age to 18.
The legislation authorizes all money seized as a result of human trafficking apprehensions to be made available to human trafficking victims who are awarded restitution by a court.
The bill also addresses the demand side of human trafficking by increasing the punishment for those who pay another person in exchange for sexual conduct.
In an effort to provide needed social services for victims of human trafficking, the bill includes a “Safe Harbor” provision that allows a court to judge a person under 18 years-old who is apprehended for prostitution – but found to be a victim of human trafficking – to be in need of services rather than simply delinquent.
Finally, the bill establishes an inter-agency task force to address human trafficking. The task force will collect data to continually study the problem of human trafficking and devise plans to share information across agencies to facilitate a more efficient pursuit of human traffickers.