Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives today passed a package of bills aimed at combating human trafficking.
Rep. Rob Kauffman, R-89, said his Judiciary Committee worked quickly last week to get the bills before the full House.
“Protecting the public is our No. 1 responsibility,” Kauffman said. He said Pennsylvania ranks 10th in the nation in terms of individuals being trafficked.
“We need to do more to address this heinous crime” .Rep. Rob Kauffman
Human trafficking involves the use of force, fraud or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act. The International Labour Organization, estimates human trafficking to be a $150 billion industry. Of that, $99 billion belongs to sexual exploitation.
Bills in the package aim to increase penalties or expand definitions of crimes related to human trafficking, while another would expand the list of sexual offenses that require offenders to participate in a program of counseling and therapy designed for incarcerated sex offenders.
List of bills passed by the House
- House Bill 161: Reclassifies the trafficking of infants to a first-degree felony.
- House Bill 2174: Prohibits defendants from using a human trafficking victim’s past sexual victimization and allegations of past sexual victimization as “evidence” in any prosecution related to human trafficking.
- House Bill 2175: Expands the list of offenses where an expert may testify about the dynamics of sexual violence and victim responses to sexual violence.
- House Bill 2176: Strengthens current law by adding certain prohibited activities that, if committed, constitute the crime of unlawful contact with a minor.
- House Bill 2177: Expands the list of sexual offenses requiring offenders to attend and participate in a Department of Corrections program of counseling and therapy designed for incarcerated sex offenders.
- House Bill 2178: Require the courts to consider whether a party or member of that party’s household has been convicted of human trafficking prior to awarding child custody to that party.
- Senate Bill 60: Provides for increased penalties regarding human trafficking and patronizing a victim of sexual servitude. Passed by the General Assembly. Now before Gov. Tom Wolf for consideration.
Other measures would prohibit defendants from introducing evidence of a human trafficking victim’s past sexual victimization; expand opportunities for expert testimony in human trafficking cases, and require courts to consider human trafficking convictions when considering child custody.
Human trafficking an underground crime
“I am glad we were able to work together as a body to get this legislation through the House and to the Senate,” said Kauffman.
“Human trafficking is an underground crime that needs be addressed. “Rep. Rob Kauffman
House members, including Kauffman, participated in a press conference today recognizing Human Trafficking Awareness Day in Pennsylvania.
To report suspected human trafficking to federal law enforcement, call 1-866-347-2423. To receive help from the National Human Trafficking Hotline, call 1-888-373-7888 or text HELP or INFO to 233733.