ABA President Laurel Bellows Asks States to Pass, Implement Stronger Human Trafficking Laws After Release of Polaris Project Report
CHICAGO, Aug. 7, 2012 — American Bar Association President Laurel Bellows today praised efforts by 28 states to add human trafficking laws to the books this year but called on four to act quickly to protect victims of this crime and to penalize those who exploit victims. Bellows is responding to today’s release of the 2012 state-by-state human trafficking ratings from Polaris Project.
“When more than half of states act within a single year to pass anti-trafficking laws, we know we are making progress,” Bellows said. “But clearly we have more work to do. This report is a road map of where we need to go and what needs to get done in the states that have not yet acted. It underlines the need for a legal framework for legislators, prosecutors, law enforcement and social service agencies to institute and implement laws to combat human trafficking.”
“The ABA is looking forward to working closely with Polaris to make certain that Americans understand the depth of the human trafficking crisis in the United States,” she added. “It is only through strong partnerships that we will eradicate this scourge.”
Polaris Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending human trafficking and modern-day slavery, reported that 28 states passed new trafficking laws last year as part of its annual ratings of all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The most improved included Massachusetts, South Carolina, West Virginia and Ohio. The “faltering four,” states that have not made even minimal efforts to combat human trafficking, are Wyoming, Arkansas, Montana and South Dakota. The ratings are based on 10 categories of laws that combat trafficking, punish traffickers and support survivors.
Bellows became president of the ABA today and will serve a one-year term. “The ABA will harness its considerable expertise to end the shameful horror of human trafficking in the United States of America,” Bellows said in her speech Monday to the ABA House of Delegates. “The victims are unfree in the land of the free — 100,000 U.S. citizens forced into sex or labor for the profit of their captors. Hundreds of thousands more men, women and children are trafficked into our country every year.” One of Bellows’ top presidential initiatives is human trafficking.
The ABA’s Task Force on Human Trafficking, established by Bellows and including Polaris Project, is working with the Uniform Law Commission to write a consistent statutory law for all states to adopt. The Task Force is also developing best practices for businesses to follow and training for lawyers and law-enforcement officials who are often the first to respond to trafficking situations. In addition, the Task Force will strengthen pro bono networks to ensure that all the civil legal needs of trafficking victims are addressed.
Polaris Project 2012 annual ratings on state human trafficking laws can be found here.
With nearly 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is the largest voluntary professional membership organization in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law.
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