WASHINGTON, D.C. – While all 50 states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation to combat sex and labor trafficking, most states lack adequate laws to support and assist those exploited by these horrific crimes. These findings are from the 2014 State Ratings on Human Trafficking Laws in the United States, released today by Polaris – a leader in the global fight to eradicate modern slavery and restore freedom to survivors. Polaris tracked a total of 37 states that passed modern slavery legislation this year. Polaris noted that implementation of these crucial laws often lags due to inadequate funding.
Go to polarisproject.org/2014stateratings to access the full ratings and individual state reports. To read Polaris’s accompanying report, “A Look Back: Building a Human Trafficking Legal Framework,” which highlights progress over the last four years, click here.
The ratings divide states into four tiers based on ten categories of laws critical to establishing a basic legal framework that combats human trafficking, punishes traffickers, and supports survivors. The top or Tier 1 category now boasts 39 states – up from 32 states last year. This year, Delaware joins Washington state and New Jersey with perfect scores in fulfilling all rated categories. Colorado, Delaware, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Utah were named as “most improved” states since 2013. No states remain in the worst, or Tier 4, category for the overall ratings. The ratings are based on statutes enacted by July 31, 2014.
However, when analyzing five categories of laws that help ensure victims have the aid and support they require, 12 states failed to make minimal efforts to pass this legislation.
“The United States has seen tremendous improvement and innovation with human trafficking laws at the state level,” said Bradley Myles, CEO of Polaris. “This progress is a reflection of the passion and commitment of advocates and policymakers in every state, but our work is far from finished. Not only do states need to do a better job at passing laws to serve victims, often times the legislation that does pass lacks adequate funding.”
“State by state, we have made a considerable amount of progress to prevent trafficking, prosecute those who enslave or purchase our children, and help survivors recover,” said U.S. Representative Kristi Noem (R-SD-At Large). “While we should take note of the progress, tens of thousands of kids remain at risk. We must continue to stand between evil and innocence, pushing forward to protect the most vulnerable and bring those buying or selling our children to justice.”
“I am extremely pleased to see so many states take meaningful action against human trafficking in the past year,” said State Senator Stewart J. Greenleaf, sponsor of Pennsylvania’s recently enacted anti-human trafficking legislation. “Advocates in Pennsylvania have worked tirelessly to educate the public and the legislature to bring Pennsylvania into the number of states that have improved their human trafficking laws. However, our work is far from over as this movement to stop human trafficking and protect victims will very much remain our priority in 2015.”
What is most disconcerting is that a majority of states still lack laws that protect victims of human trafficking and help survivors rebuild their lives. Only 15 states have full “safe harbor” laws that protect child victims of sexual exploitation, and another 7 have passed partial versions of the law. The ratings reveal that only 18 states allow prostitution convictions as a result of trafficking to be vacated from criminal records and 25 states mandate or encourage posting of the national human trafficking hotline. Some 38 states have passed legislation that provides, funds, or plans for victim assistance and protection services.
“Moving forward, it’s critical that states build upon the strong foundation of anti-human trafficking law that exists by ensuring victims have the services and resources they need to rebuild their lives,” said Britanny Vanderhoof, Polaris’s Policy Counsel. “We urge those states that continue to lack vacating conviction and safe harbor laws to make them a top priority, as well as to ensure that efforts are made to post the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline number so victims know there is help when they are ready to reach out for it.”
Polaris is a leader in the global fight to eradicate modern slavery. Named after the North Star that guided slaves to freedom in the U.S., Polaris acts as a catalyst to systemically disrupt the human trafficking networks that rob human beings of their lives and their freedom. By working with government leaders, the world’s leading technology corporations, and local partners, Polaris equips communities to identify, report, and prevent human trafficking. Our comprehensive model puts victims at the center of what we do — helping survivors restore their freedom, preventing more victims, and leveraging data and technology to pursue traffickers wherever they operate. Learn more at www.polarisproject.org.