A bill, authored by Speaker of the House Philip Gunn, aimed at helping underage victims of human trafficking has passed.
Heading into the 2019 legislative session, Speaker Gunn discussed the importance of curbing the rise of human trafficking in the state and helping the victims. HB 571 states that regardless of the circumstances, a minor cannot be charged with prostitution.
Also included in the bill is language requiring law enforcement to receive specialized training on human trafficking and the development of services for youth survivors of trafficking.
A breakdown of the full can be seen below:
- Providing blanket immunity to minors: clarification that a child under the age of 18 cannot be charged with the crime of prostitution;
- Developing required pathways to specialized services for youth survivors of sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation;
- Requiring specialized training to law enforcement to recognize, identify, respond to and support victims of human trafficking and child prostitution.
“This problem exists all around us,” Speaker Gunn said when the bill was introduced. “I’m proud of House members today for recognizing the severity of this issue in Mississippi. We are working together to strengthen our laws to help some of our most vulnerable citizens.”
Sandy Middleton, the executive director for the Center for Violence Prevention in Mississippi, assisted with the legislation. The CVP provides a place of refuge and rehabilitation for human trafficking victims, and Middleton says this bill will improve Mississippi’s fight against human trafficking.
“The Center for Violence Prevention fully supports the provisions in House Bill 571, and we are very grateful to Speaker Gunn for focusing on this issue,” Middleton said. “Due to this legislation, Mississippi becomes a model for strong policy. Moving forward, we have every confidence that the practice will follow this policy, and victims will have a better chance of recovery.”
The bill passed with a unanimous vote in the House, and it will be signed into law by the Governor.