Bipartisan legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Alison Littell McHose that expands New Jersey’s human trafficking laws by increasing protections for victims and requiring increased training and awareness programs was approved today by the General Assembly.
“Human trafficking is just another name for modern day slavery,” said McHose, R-Sussex, Warren and Morris. “For far too long, society, especially those in positions of authority and the media, have buried their heads in the sand when it comes to this issue. While it’s true that slavery was something that occurred and was abolished long ago, that’s only a half truth. Sadly, it still exists today and it’s very real. What many don’t realize is it’s going on all around us.”
The bill, A-3352, revises and expands the State’s human trafficking laws by creating a new human trafficking commission, criminalizing additional activities related to human trafficking as well as upgrading certain penalties on existing human trafficking or related crimes, increasing protections afforded to victims of human trafficking, and providing for increased training and public awareness on human trafficking issues.
“Increased education and awareness are some of our best weapons against this despicable crime,” stated McHose. “Additional stringent laws and penalties are another. The public needs to be better informed about the severity of this problem while those who engage in all aspects of this heinous form of slavery need to know there will be dire consequences for their actions.”
According to the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice, there were 179 reported human trafficking victims from September 16, 2005 to March 1, 2012, including 93 victims of labor trafficking, 60 of sex trafficking, and 26 of both labor and sex trafficking.
Specifically, the bill:
· Establishes a 15-member Commission on Human Trafficking that will evaluate the existing law concerning human trafficking and its enforcement and make recommendations for legislation, and review existing victim assistance programs and promote a coordinated response by public and private resources for victims of human trafficking;
· Addresses the human trafficking of younger victims to engage in sexual activity by making a person strictly liable for a crime of the first degree for holding, recruiting, luring, enticing, harboring, transporting, providing, or obtaining, by any means, a child under 18 years of age to engage in sexual activity, whether or not the actor mistakenly believed that the child was 18 years of age or older, even if that mistaken belief was reasonable;
· Increases the minimum fine amount for criminal human trafficking of the first degree (recruiting persons for trafficking, financing a trafficking operation) to be at least $25,000. The monies will be deposited in the “Human Trafficking Survivor’s Assistance Fund” which will also be created under this bill to provide victims’ services, promote awareness of human trafficking, and to develop, maintain, distribute and operate a training course and educational materials;
· Makes conspiracy to commit a crime of human trafficking a first degree crime punishable by imprisonment of 10 to 20 years; up to a $200,000 fine; or both;
· Makes it a crime to knowingly provide services, resources, or assistance intended for use in furthering criminal human trafficking; or make or attempt to make a person engage in sexual activity, or provide labor or services, whether for the procurer or another, knowing or understanding there is a substantial likelihood that the person was a human trafficking victim;
· Establishes a new civil action for human trafficking. Damages can be awarded reflecting the income or value of the injured party’s labor or services to the defendant. The injured person could also recover reasonable attorney’s fees and costs.
The bill now heads to Governor Christie for his consideration.