WASHINGTON, D.C. – Legislation introduced by U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) to support survivors of human trafficking and help local, state, and national law enforcement on the front lines of the fight against human trafficking passed in the Senate this week. The House of Representatives must now pass the bipartisan legislation in order for the bill to move to the President’s desk to be signed into law.
“We’ve seen the devastating effects that human trafficking has on communities in Ohio and across the country,” said Sen. Brown. “We must do more to protect Ohioans from the most heinous of crimes and to provide justice, restitution, and healing for trafficking survivors.”
The legislation includes a provision based on a bill Brown introduced earlier this year which would create a Human Trafficking Coordinator in each of the country’s federal judicial districts and a National Human Trafficking Coordinator at the Department of Justice to help the Department better coordinate its efforts to prevent and prosecute human trafficking cases. This would help improve public outreach to raise awareness of human trafficking; ensure that data on human trafficking is properly collected; and collect restitution for survivors.
In addition to this provision, Brown’s full bill, the Abolish Human Trafficking Act, enhances and expands the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, a 2015 law that increased the resources and tools available for combatting human trafficking in the United States. The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act ensures that American law enforcement is equipped to fight this crime, while helping victims rebuild their lives by using fines and penalties against their exploiters to fund restorative services and compensation.
The Abolish Human Trafficking Act would also:
- Support funding for victims’ services and law enforcement: The bill extends the life of DOJ’s Domestic Trafficking Victims’ Fund, which is financed through fines on convicted human traffickers and sexual predators, and through an annual allotment from the Community Health Centers Fund. The DOJ fund was used to provide nearly $5 million to victims’ services last year.
- Authorize key Trafficking Victims Protection Act programs. These programs are used to fund restorative services for victims and law enforcement anti-trafficking operations.
- Empower victims in the fight against trafficking: The bill authorizes the Human Trafficking Advisory Council, through which human trafficking survivors make annual recommendations to combat and prevent this crime. The legislation also requires mandatory restitution for victims of commercial sexual exploitation offenses.
- Help law enforcement fight human traffickers: The bill gives law enforcement additional tools and resources to target criminal street gangs involved in organized human trafficking and sexual exploitation.
- Increase awareness and prevention: The bill requires the Department of Homeland Security to develop specialized screening protocols for implementation across federal, state, and local law enforcement anti-trafficking task forces to ensure agencies nationwide are trained to recognize victims and refer them to services instead of arresting or prosecuting them. It also directs the Department of Health and Human Services to continue a pilot program to provide training to health care providers on human trafficking.
- Enhance reporting on human trafficking crimes: The legislation ensures that regular reporting on the number of human trafficking crimes is separated from reports on the particular form of the offense for the use of the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Program and requires the Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking to provide an annual report on the use of data received from the national human trafficking hotline. It also requires the National Institute of Justice and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct a landmark study on the long-term physical and psychological effects of the commercial sex trade.