Letter to the editor: Don’t punish trafficking victims
Children are systematically exploited by human traffickers here in America, then they are prosecuted by our criminal justice system. Minors are kidnapped, intimidated and coerced into being virtual slaves and/or prostitutes. When apprehended, they are arrested, prosecuted and incarcerated. Obviously, this is punishing the victims of the crime rather than assisting and protecting them.
Fortunately, there’s a solution that is near to realization. Senate Bill 554, the Safe Harbor bill, will immunize sexually exploited minors from prosecution and provide safe and stable housing, education, counseling and life-skills training instead of punishing them.
The bill was introduced by Sen. Stewart Greenleaf in January 2017. It passed in the state Senate but is stalled in the House. It was “tabled” on June 6, 2018. And there it sits. There are a few more days left in this year’s legislative calendar for this bill to be passed. There is broad support on both sides of the aisle, but our state representatives need to hear from us to push this bill forward.
In addition to your representative, Rep. Mike Turzai, Speaker of the House, needs to know that Pennsylvanians want to protect rather than punish victims of human trafficking. Please contact him today to voice your support for this important bill and ask him to put it to a House vote. You can contact him at 139 Main Capitol, P.O. Box 202028, Harrisburg, PA 17120-2028; (717) 772-9943; or email@example.com.