Human Trafficking Commission makes recommendations on victims, penalties

The Michigan Human Trafficking Commission has made important recommendations to the state legislature for new laws aimed at helping victims resume their lives, allowing for enhanced testimony from human trafficking experts in court and putting the perpetrators of sex and labor slavery behind bars for longer sentences, according to Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette.

The commission, chaired by Schuette’s office and composed of victim advocates, law enforcement, the medical community and state and local government, met yesterday in their first meeting of 2016.

“The Michigan Human Trafficking Commission is advancing a victim-centered approach to stopping the human trafficking problem in our state,” said Schuette. “Victims of this unthinkable crime are robbed of their childhood, their dignity or even their lives.”

The Commission approved the following legislative recommendations:

— Continuing a focus on helping victims of forced sex and labor to resume their lives by:

   *Adding local ordinance violations on the list of prostitution-related offenses victims can have removed from their criminal record;

   *Including “juvenile adjudications” to the same list to allow victims to clear prostitution-related juvenile convictions; and

   *Adding local ordinances in the list of prostitution-related offenses triggering “safe harbor” protections for minors who are victims of sex and labor trafficking.

— Increasing the penalty for sex traffickers to 15 years (up from 10 years for certain crimes currently).

— Permitting expert witnesses to testify at trial in order to educate juries on the behavior pattern of human trafficking victims where that behavior deviates from what the general public would expect.

In addition to the legislative recommendations, the commission received presentations on the following:

— Western Union discussed their work to prevent human trafficking by cutting off financial transactions to traffickers.

— The Michigan Pharmacists Association discussed their human trafficking continuing education program.

Background on Human Trafficking

Around the country, and right here in Michigan, children, women and men are forced into prostitution, domestic servitude and other labor for little or no pay, often resulting from the use of force, fraud or coercion. Human trafficking is a modern-day form of slavery and it is the second-largest and fastest-growing criminal industry in the world. Attorney General Schuette has made fighting this crime a priority by creating the first-ever human trafficking prosecution unit in his office and by helping create the Michigan Human Trafficking Commission.

The next meeting of the Michigan Human Trafficking Commission will be on April 26, 2016, followed by meetings on July 27 and November 2, 2016.

For more information, please visit the AG’s human trafficking webpage at www.michigan.gov/humantrafficking.