Alabama and Vermont both passed laws making trafficking in persons a state crime for the first time. While this is exciting progress, several states still do not have laws criminalizing trafficking, such as West Virginia and South Dakota.
Other states that already had anti-trafficking legislation moved forward on efforts to increase penalties for traffickers. Maryland legislation that passed this session will increase penalties for traffickers, and create penalties for people that knowingly benefit from trafficking.
Beyond criminal provisions, some states passed legislation that will help people report potential cases and help victims connect with services. Maryland and Oregon both passed bills that will mandate or encourage certain establishments to post the human trafficking hotline number for the National Human Trafficking Resource Center. In Maryland, hotels that have been the location of arrests for prostitution, solicitation of a minor, and/or human trafficking will have to post the number; in Oregon, establishments that sell alcohol will be provided with free materials with the hotline number. Washington state also passed legislation that will allow for the hotline number to be posted in rest stops in the state.
Following New York's example, Connecticut and Washington also have become leaders in addressing commercial sexual exploitation of children/sex trafficking of minors through so-called Safe Harbor Legislation. Such laws aim to divert minor victims of sex trafficking, who in the past may have been arrested for prostitution and treated like criminals, from the criminal justice system. Instead, minors will be directed towards service for trafficking victims/survivors. Other states, such as Illinois, are considering similar legislation.
While this session has seen the passage of a number of important pieces of anti-trafficking legislation, much remains to be done, and constituents play a vital role in pushing legislators to take action. Please encourage your representatives to address trafficking in your state.