Coakley Human Trafficking Bill Garners Lawmaker, Victim Support

By Sarah Birnbaum

May 18, 2011

BOSTON — Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley is pressing lawmakers on an initiative to crack down on human trafficking in the Bay State.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Coakley said young women forced into prostitution are treated as criminals when they should be treated as victims.

In Oakland, Ca., funding cuts mean police target women who are trafficked for sex. In Mass., AG Coakley is filing a bill that would emphasize targeting pimps and johns. (Youth Radio News via NPR)

“It’s unfair. We need tools to make sure we can go after the demand, the johns, and particularly those who would make money off the exploitation of people just as they do with guns or drugs,” Coakley said.
Coakley has filed a bill that would make human trafficking for labor or sex a felony. Right now, there's no data on how pervasive the problem is in the Commonwelath, but Coakley's bill would create a data tracking system.
The legislation would also impose much stronger penalties against pimps and johns. Currently, pimps could face between three months to two years in prison or a few hundred dollars in fines. Under the bill, they could be sentenced to 20 years for trafficking adults or to life in prison for trafficking children. 
The proposal would also provide education, shelter and other services to victims.

Tanee Hobson of Dorchester supports the measure. She says she was forced into prostitution as a 14-year-old, and says the bill could help girls like her escape the sex trade.          

“Having the pimps be able to be prosecuted more then they already are and getting more services shows the girl that they don’t have to stay in longer than they have to, and that we’re going after the pimps and they’re not getting off as easily as they have been,” Hobson said.
The bill has broad support from law enforcement and anti-trafficking advocates across the state. It will be considered by the Joint Judiciary Committee Wednesday afternoon.

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