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Pou-Vitale-Gill Landmark ‘Human Trafficking Prevention, Protection And Treatment Act’ Now Law

Measure Places New Jersey in the Forefront of Combating Forced Servitude

TRENTON – An omnibus human trafficking measure, sponsored by Senators Nellie Pou, Joseph F. Vitale and Nia H. Gill, that broadens the definition of and penalties for human trafficking, putting New Jersey in the forefront of protecting victims of sex trafficking and labor trafficking was signed into law today.

“Victims of human trafficking often are held physically, psychologically and emotionally captive by their abusers, who use tactics of fear and manipulation to force these men, women and children to engage in sex and labor slavery,” said Senator Pou, D-Passaic and Bergen. “By ensuring our police and judicial system, advocates and residents know how to identify human trafficking and bring justice to the victims of human trafficking, we can put an end to these atrocious acts occurring within our borders. And since New Jersey is home of the 2014 Super Bowl – the single largest human trafficking event each year in the United States – this legislation could not have come at a more appropriate time.”

In New Jersey, human trafficking occurs when someone knowingly holds, entices, harbors, transports, provides or obtains by any means another person to engage in sexual activity or to provide labor or services. Human traffickers use threats of serious bodily harm, physical restraint and coercion to keep their victims captive. The “Human Trafficking Prevention, Protection and Treatment Act,” S-2239, expands the definition of human trafficking to include actions involving abduction, fraud, deceit or other deception and abuses of power as a means of accomplishing human trafficking.

“Right here in New Jersey, men, women and children are being enslaved through means of human trafficking – put to work in the sex industry, and in such jobs as domestic servants or as farmhands,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex. “Often due to cultural and language barriers, victims of human trafficking can’t self-identify as victims of human trafficking or are too frightened to speak out, and because of that crimes continue to go underreported. This law gives advocates the tools necessary to end the enslavement of people in New Jersey.”

The law expands the penalties for the crime of human trafficking by ensuring that those who are convicted of human trafficking-related crimes are subject to a minimum fine of $25,000, which will be deposited into a newly-formed Human Trafficking Survivor’s Assistance Fund. The fund will provide assistance to victims of human trafficking and promote human trafficking awareness across the state.

“Seven years ago, human trafficking became a crime here in New Jersey,” said Senator Gill, D-Essex and Passaic, lead sponsor of the original law making human trafficking a crime. “With the enactment of this legislation, we are sending the message that those who perpetrate this crime will be found and punished for their actions. Today, we are continuing New Jersey’s legacy of creating strong laws against human trafficking and providing the victims of this crime, mostly women and children, with the help they need.”

Additionally the law will expand penalties as follows:

 Establish the crime of the first degree for anyone who knowingly owns, controls, manages, supervises or otherwise keeps any premises – such as a residence, apartment, hotel, motel or other lodging establishment – where human trafficking is regularly carried on, leases a premise used for human trafficking or fails to make a reasonable effort to abate this use.

 Make it a crime of the first degree to knowingly publish, disseminate or display any advertisement or to knowingly purchase an advertisement for a commercial sex act depicting a minor.

 Upgrade the criminal penalty for transporting a person into New Jersey to promote the person’s engaging in prostitution and for knowingly leasing a place to be regularly used for prostitution.

 Establish the crime of criminal recklessness for licensed owners or drivers of commercial passenger vehicles that transport human trafficking victims.

 Increase the criminal penalties for knowingly possessing or viewing any photograph, film, videotape, computer program or file, video game or any other reproduction which depicts a child engaging in a prohibited sexual act or in the simulation of such act.

The law will also allow victims of human trafficking to seek civil damages against the perpetrators for their injuries.

The law creates a 15-member Commission on Human Trafficking comprised of state agency officials, law enforcement, prosecutors, social service providers and advocates. Among other responsibilities, the Commission would be tasked with reviewing and evaluating current law and assistance programs and making recommendations for legislation. The Commission will report their findings to the Governor and Legislature annually.

Besides the Human Trafficking Survivor’s Assistance Fund, the law includes numerous additional provisions to provide services for victims of human trafficking including a rehabilitative program to educate those convicted of engaging a prostitute on health risks, legal ramifications and the correlation between prostitution and human trafficking; a 24-hour hotline to report suspected human trafficking; and a program to train law enforcement, judges, hotel and motel owners and health care personnel on how to respond to and investigate human trafficking.

Due to the underground nature of human trafficking and the use of fear and abuse, self-reporting of human trafficking is extremely rare. The Senators note that a broad awareness campaign to inform and educate the public of the signs of human trafficking and to ease the reporting of trafficking, will be the most effective way to end sex and labor slavery within New Jersey. These advocacy efforts, paired with training programs for both governmental and nongovernmental organizations, will help to bring those perpetrating human trafficking-related crimes to justice.

A 2012 report by Polaris Project – a national nonprofit organization that works to prevent human trafficking and modern-day slavery – ranked New Jersey as a tier-two state in combating human trafficking, meaning that New Jersey has passed numerous laws to combat human trafficking and should take more steps to improve and implement its laws. Twenty-one states received a tier-one rating, the highest awarded by the Polaris Project. Now that this legislation has been signed into law, New Jersey has one of the most progressive and comprehensive anti-trafficking statutes in the country.

The Commission on Human Trafficking and the Human Trafficking Survivor’s Assistance Fund will be created immediately. All other provisions of the law will go into effect the first day of the second month following enactment – or July 1.

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