Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Need for Tougher Human Trafficking Laws

On Thursday, June 30th, the Massachusetts Senate will debate Senate Bill #1950, An Act Relative to the Commercial Exploitation of People. Legislative measures to criminalize human trafficking have been filed for multiple sessions but have only recently gained momentum due to the arrest of Norman Barnes, a Dorchester man who has been charged with the kidnapping and sexual exploitation of a 15-year-old girl.

Senators Robert Hedlund (R-Weymouth), Michael Knapik (R-Westfield), Richard Ross (R-Wrentham) and I are offering several amendments to strengthen the bill by increasing the punishment or elevating the charges of several of the outlined crimes for those who are found to be involved in human trafficking.

Human trafficking is a heinous crime for which we should have no tolerance in Massachusetts. Not only must we join with the 46 other states that have enacted laws to address these outrageous acts, we must pass comprehensive legislation that provides every tool known to be effective in combating and eradicating human trafficking to those who can put them to work.
Among the amendments filed are those that would:

* increase the bill's proposed punishment of human trafficking from 15 years in jail to 20 years;

* create additional penalties for those who use a firearm to facilitate or attempt to facilitate human trafficking;

* create additional penalties for those who physically injure or threaten to injure another person to facilitate or attempt to facilitate human trafficking;

* provide a confidentiality statute to protect victims who had been forced into sexual servitude from being identified or located by perpetrators; and

* create a separate additional crime for the enticement of a minor over the internet that carries either a fine of $2,500 or a maximum of five years in jail for the first offense, and not less than five years in jail for subsequence offences.

The bill now before the Senate offers us a tremendous opportunity to forcefully address the issue of human trafficking. Given the incalculable and devastating impacts this crime has on individuals, families and society, we have an undeniable obligation to make the bill as strong as possible.