The state legislature in the session that ended last week passed two measures meant to fight human trafficking, but that fight won’t stop there.
Representative Elijah Haahr (R-Springfield) chaired a task force on human trafficking that identified several things Missouri can do to fight trafficking, which has been a growing problem in the state.
The legislature passed measures that let trafficking victims participate in a state program to hide their addresses, to help them hide from abductors; and that criminalize advertising sex with trafficking victims.
Haahr says another effort will be more budgetary.
“One of the problems with bringing somebody out of the trafficking industry is that it takes, most people say, two years of them being completely taken care of before they’re ready to reenter the work force, become a normal citizen like we are, because they’ve had such a difficult journey,” said Haahr. “That’s very expensive and very hard to do.”
So, Haahr says, there will be an effort to free up money in the state budget to go to homes that support victims.
Haahr says legislation could also be considered to expunge prior prostitution convictions for trafficking victims, to help them find employment after escaping.
“A lot of times if you have a trafficking victim that comes out of that, if they have four or five prostitution convictions there’s no way for them to go get employment or get on with their life. We’re looking at what other states have done for potential solutions on that as well,” said Haahr.
Another recommendation is that the national trafficking hotline be posted at workplaces – something Haahr says most states already recommend or require.
Filing of bills for the next session of the General Assembly begins December 1.