CLEVELAND, OH – Today, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) joined Cuyahoga County law enforcement and human trafficking victim advocates as he introduces bipartisan legislation to crack down on drug-facilitated human trafficking. The Protecting Rights of Those Exploited by Coercive Trafficking (PROTECT) Act would specifically address the use of drugs to facilitate human trafficking and protect vulnerable victims of trafficking. Brown’s legislation is also co-sponsored by Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Rob Portman (R-OH).
“Traffickers will stop at nothing to exploit victims for their own personal gain,” said Brown. “The PROTECT Act will provide enhanced measures for law enforcement officers who are working every day to bring these heinous criminals to justice.”
- The PROTECT Act would amend existing human trafficking law to specify that the use of drugs or illegal substances to cause a person to engage in a commercial sex act or forced labor constitutes a form of coercion.
- The PROTECT Act also contains a provision to protect trafficking victims from prosecution, recognizing that victims are often forced to commit crimes.
Human traffickers often introduce or exploit drug addiction to control or force victims into prostitution or forced labor. This compounds the trauma experienced by human trafficking victims and undermines recovery efforts for individuals suffering from addiction.
Brown was joined at the news conference by Sgt. James Mackey, Assistant Director of the Cuyahoga Regional Human Trafficking Task Force with the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department and Jennifer Schlosser with the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center.
“Victims of human trafficking are often drugged, beaten or otherwise manipulated and coerced into submission of their traffickers. Traffickers exert this exploitation, for one thing, to line their own pockets with money. Sheriff Pinkney is in full support of the PROTECT Act of 2018 and views this legislation as a valuable tool for law enforcement. This legislation will allow otherwise apprehensive victims to come forward without fear of repercussion for actions they were coerced into. This will allow the victims another avenue to regain control of their life, free from the coercive and controlling acts of their traffickers,” said Sgt. Mackey.
“Victims of trafficking come from any community and any walk of life, and all are being manipulated and coerced by their trafficker,” said Jennifer Schlosser, Director of Community Engagement of Cleveland Rape Crisis Center. “There is a critical need for resources, support, and services for survivors of trafficking and we applaud Senator Brown and the co-sponsors of the PROTECT Act for being on the forefront of creating systemic change for survivors of trafficking in our community and across the country.”
In addition to Sens. Cornyn and Portman, Brown’s bill is also cosponsored by Sen. Feinstein (D-CA), Sen. Nelson (D-FL), Sen. Klobuchar (D-MN), and Sen. Tillis (R-NC). Companion legislation has also been introduced in the House.
Brown’s bipartisan, bicameral legislation has also been endorsed by a number of law enforcement organizations and human trafficking victim advocacy groups including: the Fraternal Order of Police, National Sheriffs’ Association, Major County Sheriff’s Association, National District Attorney’s Association, Polaris Project, Human Service Chamber of Franklin County, Shared Hope International, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and Truckers against Trafficking.
A one-pager on the bill can be found HERE.