Judiciary Committee

JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT

Bill No.:

HB-5621

Title:

AN ACT CONCERNING HUMAN TRAFFICKING.

Vote Date:

3/16/2016

Vote Action:

Joint Favorable Substitute

PH Date:

3/14/2016

File No.:

425

SPONSORS OF BILL:

Judiciary Committee

REASONS FOR BILL:

The Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Council reviewed the State's statutory treatment of human trafficking. Despite Connecticut's passage of one of the nation's toughest anti-human trafficking laws ten years ago, no convictions have been made for trafficking in persons. Human trafficking and prostitution continue to be significant problems within our State.

SUBSTITUTE LANGUAGE:

There are three amendments to the original language of HB-5621.

One amendment expands the list of property subject to forfeiture so that it includes property used or intended for use, in any manner or part, to commit or facilitate the patronizing of a prostitute from a motor vehicle, as addressed in CGS § 53a-83a, as amended by this act.

Another amendment removes the prohibition against offering hourly rates for sleeping accommodations, as originally provided for in section 6 of this act.

The final amendment involves the record-keeping requirements – which lodging operators must maintain – and eliminates the requirement that these records be computerized. In other words, it enables lodging operators to comply with this requirement with non-digital record-keeping systems.

RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:

Division of Criminal Justice: Requests changes to the JFS, and supports this bill with the changes they recommend. The Division recommends deletion of Section 2, by which each state's attorney and each municipal chief of police must prepare annual trafficking reports to the General Assembly. This requirement involves information not readily available nor easily obtainable by the state's attorneys; it would detract from the Division's ability to discharge its core responsibilities, including the actual prosecution of traffickers; it requires the disclosure of information in an unwise and often illegal manner; and it aims to advance a goal that is already being achieved through the Trafficking in Persons Council (TIP Council).

Further, the Division opposes the revisions to Section 7, which eliminates the prosecution of sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds. This change, though well-intentioned, would limit the ability of the juvenile justice system to remove these individuals from the control of “the john or the pimp” victimizing them. This would also reduce the likelihood of these children testifying against the traffickers. The Division recommends Section 7 be deleted, which would leave the current statute (C.G.S. § 53a-82) as it stands.

Office of the Victim Advocate, Natasha M. Pierre, Esq., State Victim Advocate: Strongly supports this bill. This bill requires the involvement of establishments in the best position to assist in the detection of human trafficking and to help prevent incidents of human trafficking. This bill also urges the criminal justice system to view and treat the victims of human trafficking as just that – victims – rather than having victims face prosecution for being forced into a criminal trade.

The Permanent Commission on the Status of Women: Supports this bill. This bill addresses the demand side of human trafficking and prostitution by punishing those who patronize a prostitute, by removing the mistake of age defense, and by lowering the age at which a person can be arrested for prostitution (such that any sixteen- or seventeen-year-old engaged in sexual exploitation will be referred to the Department of Children and Families, rather than enter the criminal justice system). This bill promotes much-needed education and training, which will help enable hotel and motel staff to recognize potential human trafficking and associated activities.

Testimony favors the requirement to maintain transactions and receipts records for six months, and favors these transactions being electronic (although the language requiring this has been substituted, see above), as it would help assist police if they need to investigate a report of human trafficking or prostitution at a hotel or motel that does not already request identification or credit card information, accepting cash only. Further, PCSW testimony addresses the now-stricken prohibition on hourly rates, suggesting that the intent of the former Section 6 might be better served if modeled on the ordinance language of cities that already prohibit hourly rates, such as Philadelphia, San Antonio, and Baltimore.

Finally, this bill promotes the needed effort to gain understanding of why no one has been convicted under state human trafficking statutes by requiring annual reports from state's attorneys and from chiefs of police.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:

Connecticut Bar Association, Human Rights and Responsibilities Section: Supports this bill. The Section supports this bill because it broadens the range of protection by decriminalizing the involvement of victims less than eighteen years of age, requires a training program, requires reporting to the General Assembly, and amends the duties and composition of the TIP Council. Human Rights and Responsibilities Section has supported this legislation for three years. Approximately 80% of human trafficking victims are women and children and about one-half are under the age of 18. They are the least likely to be able to escape human trafficking, modern-day slavery.

Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance: Strongly supports this bill. This bill increases the age at which a child can be charged with prostitution, which is appropriate considering the background of individuals typically victimized by this type of activity, and further considering the permissions and responsibilities given to sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds in other areas of state law and regulation.

Connecticut Alliance to End Sexual Violence, Deb Heinrich, Director of Policy and Public Relations: Supports this bill. This bill raises the age of conviction for prostitution to eighteen years, and thus focuses on helping the people who are harmed by human trafficking. This bill also holds accountable the people who make human trafficking possible and profitable: it establishes monetary penalties to the person patronizing a prostitute, eliminates the mistake in age defense, and creates forfeiture requirements for property having certain connections to the patronizing of a prostitute.

Connecticut Voices for Children, Sharon Langer, Interim Executive Director and Advocacy Director, and Bianca Rey, Associate Policy Fellow: Supports this bill. This bill raises the age of prosecution for prostitution from 16 to 18, and thus serves as a logical extension of existing state efforts to prevent and respond to human trafficking, and treats these children as victims and survivors of human trafficking.

Hilda Acevedo, Vernon Resident: Supports this bill. This bill addresses the role of hotel owners and employees, and changes the treatment of minors involved in prostitution. With regards to the hotels' roles in prostitution and human trafficking: this bill requires hotels to maintain records, train employees annually, and offer no hourly rates. With regards to the treatment of minors: this bill protects minors who fall victim to prostitution by increasing the age of prosecution to eighteen.

Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Liza Andrews, Director of Public Policy & Communications: Supports this bill. This bill includes efforts to create greater protection for victims and greater accountability for those who support this horrific crime. This bill addresses the demand side of human trafficking: it implements reporting and training requirements upon business owners, fines for individuals found guilty of patronizing a prostitute, and forfeiture of property used or intended to be used for prostitution.

Connecticut Women's Education and Legal Fund, Catherine Bailey, Legal and Public Policy Director, and Madeline Granato, Policy Associate: Support this bill, with suggestion. This bill implements additional policies to ensure human trafficking is identified and punished, takes action against the demand side of prostitution, raises the age in the crime of enticing a minor, and removes the mistake of age defense. It includes measures that target commercial businesses: it prohibits hotels and motels from offering hourly rates, and extends human trafficking posting requirements to include rest stops and adult entertainment facilities.

Suggestion: direct additional resources toward addressing vulnerability: increasing adequate shelter services, job training opportunities, access to a living wage, and other positive strategies for youth.

Raymond Bechard, Author and Advocate Focusing on Human Rights and Human Trafficking: Supports this bill. This bill increases the age of minority – in the context of prosecution for prostitution – to eighteen; it eliminates the legal defense of a person guilty of “paid pedophilia;” expands the requirement for the display of notice concerning services available to victims of human trafficking, so that adult entertainment establishments (“strip clubs”) are no longer exempted simply by having a kitchen or café license.

Urges to include unlicensed “Massage Parlors” in the group of businesses required to post this signage, and that it be done in appropriate languages and dialects. Many of the 140 such establishments in Connecticut harbor and abuse victims of human trafficking, most of whom do not speak English.

Connecticut Catholic Public Affairs Conference, Inc., Michael C. Culhane, Executive Director: Supports this bill. This bill expands the duties of the TIP Council to collect, analyze, and disseminate data on human trafficking. Despite support, conference is still concerned about the elimination of the Council's responsibility in identifying criteria for services needed by victims of human trafficking. These services and monitoring effectiveness should be their responsibility.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:

Connecticut Lodging Association, Victor Antico Jr., President: Strongly opposes this bill. Trafficking networks often rely on legitimate businesses to sustain their operations and infrastructure. This bill does not unify anti-human trafficking efforts, but rather isolates the lodging industry.

Gray, Jeryl: submitted testimony in opposition of this bill. This bill and similar bills extend and expand the enablement and utilization of the powers of various “”interested parties”. She opposes passing this bill because bill after bill is being passed by various committees in our legislature that enable corruption and gives them more power.

Reported by: Isis M. Irizarry

Date: 04/07/2016