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Question of the Month ~ January 2014


Q. What steps have states taken to prevent human trafficking?

Human trafficking involves the detention of people against their will, who are then forced to work — in factories or local businesses, for example, or as domestic workers in homes. One of the more common forms of trafficking involves coercing individuals to work in the commercial sex trade.
According to the Polaris Project, a national organization working to prevent human trafficking, certain groups of people are most vulnerable to trafficking, including undocumented immigrants and homeless/runaway youths.
The U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act was passed in 2000 to protect against human trafficking, and many states have since used it as a model to enact their own measures. (Because trafficking is often discovered by local authorities, state legislation supplements, and sometimes strengthens, federal law.)
In an August 2013 report, the Polaris Project suggests a number of statutory provisions to prevent human trafficking. The first is having a law on the books that criminalizes sex trafficking. All but two U.S. states (and every state in the Midwest) have such laws, but the penalties vary by state.
Some states have made trafficking in minors a stand-alone offense. In Illinois, this is the case for trafficking anyone under 18, but in some states, trafficking minors is a distinct offense only if the minor is 16 or younger. Other states’ statutes make trafficking minors an aggravating factor that affects sentencing, but do not make it a distinct offense, according to the Polaris Project.
All 50 states have adopted penalties for labor trafficking. Most legislation defines this type of trafficking as exploiting someone’s labor or services by use of threats, violence or coercion. The Polaris Project holds up the example of Colorado, where the definition of involuntary servitude has been expanded. In that state, people who receive compensation for their work are also considered trafficking victims if their work is coerced.
Other Polaris Project recommendations include:
The Polaris Project also recommends special training for law enforcement to identify and respond to human trafficking, the creation of a state human-trafficking commission, and the establishment of a hot line to respond to reports of trafficking.


Article written by Ilene Grossman, assistant director for CSG Midwest. She can be reached at igrossman@csg.org. Question of the Month highlights an inquiry received by CSG Midwest; to request assistance, please contact us at csgm@csg.org or 630.925.1922.