Safe Harbor Bill Advancing in Legislature

A bill based on Minnesota’s Safe Harbor law was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on February 26. It’s is sponsored by Senator Amy Klobuchar from Minnesota, and it includes provisions to fully back the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline.

 

The Stop Exploitation Through Trafficking (SETT) Act of 2015, or S. 166, would establish practices treating minors who have engaged in commercial sex as victims of trafficking rather than as criminals. Instead of charging and prosecuting victims, they will be directed towards service providers, victim treatment centers, child advocacy centers, and other social services.

 

If the bill passes, the federal government will back the National Trafficking Resource Center hotline. Currently, the hotline acts with some federal authorization, but not with the force of law given to other national hotlines serving victims. According to Polaris Project statistics, The National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline received 21,431 calls and 1,279 text messages in 2014. Likewise, 5,167 human trafficking cases were reported in the United States through the hotline. “This new data provides fresh evidence that human trafficking is not just a problem plaguing countries half a world away-it’s happening in our own backyard,” said Klobuchar in a press release.

 

The bill gives financial incentives to other states to develop similar laws. Moreover, the law would keep victims eligible for the Job corps. “We need to do more to ensure that victims of sex trafficking are supported, not thrown behind bars,” said Klobuchar.

 

SETT creates a national strategy to fight human trafficking. It intends to coordinate efforts and ensure data sharing between agencies.

 

The House of Representatives passed their version of the law in January. The Senate will debate on the law next.

 

SETT has been backed by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, and Shared Hope International.

 

Photo credit: http://www.klobuchar.senate.gov/

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