Human Trafficking Bill Becomes Law In Mass.

By Sarah Birnbaum

Nov. 21, 2011

human trafficking

A scene from Oakland, Ca. The new Mass. bill treats women who are trafficked for sex as the victims, not the criminals. (Youth Radio News via NPR)

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick signed a bill on Nov. 21  to crack down on human trafficking in the Bay State. 

People who traffic others for sex or forced labor may now be punished “by a mandatory-minimum term of five years, with a potential maximum sentence of up to 20 years, and a fine of up to $25,000,” with businesses fined up to $1 million, according to a statement from the Governor’s office. If the person being trafficked is under 18, the sentence may increase to life in prison. The bill also includes stricter penalties against customers who seek out prostitutes. 

At the signing, Gov. Patrick said the law creates new tools to deal with a devastating problem: “one that disrupts families, that turns lives upside down, that affects communities and has ripple effects throughout a whole host of corners of our Commonwealth and our character as a commonwealth.”

Read the governor’s press release with additional information about the bill.

Attorney General Martha Coakley, who was also at the signing, said law enforcement is rethinking how it approaches prostitution. The new law treats young women and women forced into prostitution as victims instead of offenders, she said, and “change[s] the lens.”

“In a criminal justice system that under-punishes johns, that has left unpunished those who would make money off of trafficking, we have focused on the very people who have been victimized the most,” she said.

The law also provides education, shelter and other services to victims.

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