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Human Trafficking State Ratings Show Progress in 39 States

WASHINGTON, D.C. (August 14, 2013) – Releasing the 2013 state ratings on human trafficking laws in the United States, Polaris Project today championed the progress made by a majority of states in passing legislation to combat sex and labor trafficking and support survivors. In 2013, 39 states passed anti-trafficking laws and 32 states are now ranked in Polaris Project’s top Tier 1 category – up from 21 states last year. For the first time ever, two states have successfully fulfilled all rated categories: Washington and New Jersey, where Polaris Project operates an office in Newark. Wyoming, Arkansas, Mississippi, and New Jersey were named as “most improved” states.

For the full state ratings, map, analysis, and individual state reports, go to

“Over the past year, the momentum among advocates, legislators, and state officials to pass robust laws combatting human trafficking has been inspiring,” said Bradley Myles, CEO of Polaris Project. “We’ve witnessed a historic turning point now that all fifty states have passed laws criminalizing human trafficking. However, criminals are trafficking women, men, and children from coast to coast at horrendous rates. In every state, we need to give prosecutors and law enforcement the right tools to stop traffickers, and state agencies must have the ability to protect survivors and help them reclaim their freedom.” 

This is the 4th year in a row that Polaris Project has released an annual rating of all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Each state is placed in one of 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 ratings are based on statutes enacted by July 31, 2013. In July, the Uniform Law Commission (ULC) adopted a uniform act to guide state legislatures when drafting legislation to combat human trafficking that incorporated most of these ten categories.On Monday, the American Bar Association (ABA) approved a resolution supporting the ULC’s uniform act.

“We commend the 39 state legislatures that have worked hard to strengthen their anti-trafficking laws, but many states must still take steps to ensure that victims can receive the help they need to rebuild their lives,” said James Dold, Senior Policy Counsel. “We are seeing a clear trend as states like New Jersey, Louisiana, and Nevada pass strong bills that tell victims they are not forgotten. Moving forward, Polaris Project will aggressively work to encourage state legislatures, especially in the mountain states region, to strengthen their laws to protect and assist victims of this crime.”

Key highlights from the 2013 state ratings on human trafficking laws include: 

VICTIM ASSISTANCE: A majority of states still lack laws that protect victims of sex trafficking and help survivors rebuild their lives. Only 12 states have full “safe harbor” laws that protect child victims of sexual exploitation, and another six have passed partial versions of the law; 14 states allow prostitution convictions as a result of trafficking to be removed or “vacated” from criminal records; 22 states mandate or encourage posting of the national human trafficking hotline; and 33 states have passed legislation that provides, funds, or plans for victim assistance and protection services.

MOST IMPROVEDArkansas catapulted from Tier 4 to Tier 1 after passing legislation which  allowed for asset forfeiture from traffickers, provided law enforcement training, mandated posting of the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline, provided victim services, and more.Mississippi jumped two tiers by enacting legislation that allows for asset forfeiture, training for law enforcement, and for sex trafficking victims to vacate their prostitution charges, among other provisions. Wyoming, which became the last state in the nation to outlaw human trafficking in February, moved up two tiers. New Jersey moved from Tier 2 to Tier 1 (Read more on New Jersey’s legislation here).

MOUNTAIN STATES: Considerable work remains in the mountain states, as the region continues to struggle to keep up with progress seen elsewhere in the country, and especially lacks strong victim assistance measures. South Dakota remains in Tier 4; ArizonaUtah,Colorado, and North Dakota lag other states in Tier 3; and Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming still require work in Tier 2. This is why the McCain Institute and Polaris Project are partnering together to work with stakeholders at the local and state levels to strengthen human trafficking laws in this region. Mrs. Cindy McCain is participating in the McCain Institute’s work. Read the 2012 state ratings here. Read the 2011 state ratings here.

Human trafficking is a thriving criminal industry, with traffickers making billions in profits by using force, fraud, or coercion to rob victims of their freedom. The International Labor Organization estimates that there are 20.9 million victims of human trafficking worldwide, with hundreds of thousands of victims forced to provide commercial sex, labor, or services against their will here in the United States. Polaris Project established its policy team in 2004. Since then, the policy team has worked across the country and has contributed to the passage of over 100 anti-trafficking bills at the state level, including 15 bills in 2013.


To get help, report a tip, or request information or training, call The National Human Trafficking Resource Center at: 1-888-373-7888 or send a text to BeFree (233733).

About Polaris Project
Polaris Project is a leading organization in the global fight against human trafficking and modern-day slavery. Named after the North Star “Polaris” that guided slaves to freedom along the Underground Railroad, Polaris Project is transforming the way that individuals and communities respond to human trafficking, in the U.S. and globally. By successfully pushing for stronger federal and state laws, operating the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline (1-888-373-7888), conducting trainings, and providing vital services to victims of trafficking, Polaris Project creates long-term solutions that move our society closer to a world without slavery. Learn more at

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Need help? Polaris operates the U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline.