After amendments were considered, senate bill 1951 passed unanimously in the Massachusetts State House on June 30. Senate bill 1951 is the senate version of the anti-human trafficking bill in Massachusetts. The bill went to the state representatives where they decided that the bill should go into conference. Now three members from each branch will meet to write a unified bill that will go to their respective branches to be voted on. They will look at the two bills (SB 1951 and HR3483), and debate which aspects of the two bills that should remain in the unified bill.
This is where we, as the general public, need to tell conference committee members and leadership from the two branches what we need in this state to fight modern day slavery. We don’t want a weak bill to come out of conference that does not address the fundamental issues of human trafficking while the politicians bask in their own praise about tackling human trafficking.
Some of the important aspects of the bill include preserving the establishment of a John school that will address the demand side of the problem. A study by ABT revealed that the John school in San Francisco reduced recidivism by thirty percent with little cost to the city.
Other areas of concern include preserving language to train not only law enforcement officials, but also social service providers and the general public. More non-government organizations should be part of the task force because they understand the hurdles that victims need to overcome to be able to stand on their own.
The safe harbor clause should cover all victims, not just minors. Is it fair that a human trafficking victim that was enticed at aged 15 and caught at aged 18 by the police should be charged with a crime? A criminal record could potentially prevent that victim from getting the job he or she needs to free themselves of a life of crime. This is also why decreasing the penalties for selling sex by adult women should be considered as well. It has proven effective in Sweden.
The human trafficking trust fund as outlined by the senate bill should be preserved. More money will find its way to social service providers that will help victims. The senate version also does a better job in protecting victim rights and services. Some of that language can be found in Section 39K of SECTION 11 and Section 20M of SECTION 24.
I have drafted a letter that I have written myself that could be used to lobby members on the conference committee.
The members of the conference committee are: Senator Mark Montigny of New Bedford, Sen. Bruce Tarr of Gloucester, Sen. Jennifer Flanagan of Leominster, Rep. Eugene O’Flaherty of Chelsea, Rep. Sheila Harrington of Groton, and Rep. Elizabeth Malia of Jamaica Plain. The speaker of the Senate is Therese Murray of Plymouth. The speaker of the House is Robert DeLeo of Winthrop.
If there are other aspects of the bill that you think is important, feel free to include them as well. Your voice needs to be heard. It is important that we contact them as soon as possible. The State House will break for a summer vacation this Friday, July 29, so we need to call, e-mail, and write as much as we can before then.