Saturday, April 20, 2013

The North Star Shines Over Connecticut

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Over 150 years ago, slaves in America often relied on the North Star to determine their journey to freedom. Also called Polaris, the North Star never changes position. It always points to the north.

Today, the North Star is beginning to shine brightly over Connecticut.

On April 19, 2013 the Connecticut State Legislature’s Joint Committee on Judiciary voted on three important, game-changing pieces of human trafficking legislation.
Along with HB 6500 - AN ACT PROHIBITING THE PUBLICATION OF ADVERTISEMENTS FOR COMMERCIAL SEXUAL ACTS THAT DEPICT A MINOR, which was decided on by the Joint Committee on Children, these four bills would, if approved, create some of the toughest anti-human trafficking laws in America.

(Briefs of these proposed laws are listed below.)

When we began this work over two years ago Americans were becoming accustomed to the utter lack of cooperation between Republicans and Democrats. I began to lose hope in our legislative efforts because of the widening division between these two parties.

I never thought I would see what occurred in just the past few days. All four bills passed through their committees favorably and unanimously. Each member of these two committees, Republican and Democrat, voted to make these important bills into law.

Links to voting tallies:
1.      HB 5666
2.      SB 1158
3.      HB 6696
4.      HB 6500

Now, our work continues so that this comprehensive legislation becomes law. Use this website to find and contact your Connecticut representative. Urge them to protect the lives of these victims and prevent more abuse from taking place in our communities.

Here are summaries of each bill:
  1.  HB 5666 - "To expand the offenses that are subject to forfeiture of money and property used in, or obtained or derived from the commission of, sexual exploitation and human trafficking, to include prostitution and promoting prostitution in the third degree."
  2. SB 1158 - "To: (1) Amend existing provisions that provide for the inventory, seizure and forfeiture of criminal assets to include assets derived from commercial sexual exploitation of a minor; (2) require the Office of the Chief Court Administrator to develop a bilingual notice concerning resources for victims of human trafficking; (3) require certain liquor permit premises and truck stops to display such notice in a conspicuous location; and (4) require the Office of Victim Services to analyze the compensation and services provided to victims of human trafficking and make recommendations regarding statutory changes that may be enacted to address the needs of such victims.
  3. HB 6696 - "To (1) revise the statutory criteria relating to the criminal offense of trafficking in persons, (2) increase criminal penalties for persons who patronize a prostitute who is under eighteen years of age or a victim of human trafficking, (3) allow the Superior Court to vacate criminal convictions for prostitution involving victims of human trafficking, and (4) establish a task force that will study the implementation of state initiatives designed to reduce and prevent human trafficking."
  4.  HB 6500 - "This bill expands the crime of commercial exploitation of a minor to include knowingly (1) publishing, disseminating, or displaying any advertisement for a commercial sex act that includes a depiction of a minor, or (2) causing such publication, dissemination, or display directly or indirectly. This crime already punishes knowingly buying space to advertise for a commercial sex act that depicts a minor. The bill extends the provisions on defenses to this crime to the new conduct covered by the bill as follows:
    1. It is not a defense to prosecution that the accused (a) did not know the depicted person's age or (b) relied on his or her apparent age or on oral or written, non-governmental representations of such; and
    2. It is a defense if a person made a reasonable, bona fide attempt to ascertain the depicted person's age by requiring him or her to produce a government-issued identity card and keeping and producing a copy.
    By law, commercial sexual exploitation of a minor is a class C felony punishable by one to 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both."

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