Williams, Poore Bills Protect, Support Human Trafficking Victims

DOVER – As the scourge of human trafficking continues to impact residents throughout Delaware, Rep. Kim Williams and Sen. Nicole Poore have proposed two pieces of legislation that would help victims of human trafficking rebuild their lives after trauma, bolster public awareness and coordination, and clarify the crime of prostitution.

These measures are the result of recommendations from the Delaware Human Trafficking Interagency Coordinating Council, which is a coalition of agency leaders and stakeholders dedicated to supporting human trafficking victims.

Under House Bill 102, championed by Rep. Williams, human trafficking victims forced into participating in criminal activities could have a clean slate, opening opportunities to jobs, housing and education. The legislation allows a person who is arrested or convicted of any crime, except a violent felony, as a direct result of being a victim of human trafficking to pursue a pardon, expungement or motion to vacate judgement. HB 102 also expands the Human Trafficking Interagency Coordinating Council by adding one member each from the judicial branch and from the Department of Education, and encourages more public awareness of this issue.

“Human trafficking effectively silences victims. With this legislation, we are taking them out of the shadows and helping them find the pathway to rehabilitation,” said Rep. Williams, D-Newport. “Trafficking victims face severe trauma, fear and manipulation, and we should not punish them for being forced to commit crimes against their will. They deserve the opportunity to pursue housing, education and employment without the mark of a criminal record holding them back.”

Sponsored by Sen. Poore, Senate Bill 60 clarifies under the law that children can’t be convicted of prostitution. Though it is rare children are found guilty, this bill puts the practice in law, clarifying that an individual must be 18 years of age or older in order to be found guilty of prostitution.

“It’s so important we stop treating these children as criminals, and start treating them like the victims that they are. Human trafficking is traumatic, and has lifelong consequences,” said Sen. Poore, D-New Castle. “Victims need counseling and intervention, not criminal records.”

According to an analysis by Polaris Project, nearly 41,000 human trafficking cases were reported nationwide from 2007 to 2017, with 8,759 cases in 2017 alone. Of the total cases nationwide, there have been 91 reported in Delaware since 2007.

Victims of human trafficking need wraparound services and support, which is why the work of the Delaware Human Trafficking Interagency Coordinating Council is critical.

“With Delaware’s location along the I-95 corridor, human trafficking is a serious concern that needs to be addressed with an all-hands-on-deck approach. The Delaware Human Trafficking Interagency Coordinating Council is committed to helping victims and bringing all stakeholders to the table to combat this issue,” said Dr. Leslie Brower, chair of the council. “This legislation is a substantial step forward to helping victims rebuild their lives from the trauma of human trafficking, showing them that these experiences do not define them.”