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6/14/2017 Senate OKs Coyne’s comprehensive human trafficking bill
STATE HOUSE – The Senate has passed legislation sponsored by Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne to help prevent human trafficking and apprehend its perpetrators in Rhode Island and across the country.

The Uniform Act on Prevention of and Remedies for Human Trafficking (2017-S 0073A), which passed the Senate today, would bring Rhode Island’s human trafficking laws in line with national standards as a means to help authorities around the country crack down on a nefarious underground industry that, by definition, generally involves crossing state lines. It enacts a three-prong approach of strong penalties, protecting and assisting victims and improved public awareness and planning.

“Rhode Island has made great strides in recent years in trying to address human trafficking, but there’s still much more to be done. Making our laws mirror a national model will better enable Rhode Island to work with other states so we can be more effective in stopping this abominable crime and rescuing its victims,” said Senator Coyne (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence). “Critically, this bill improves protections and services for victims, who should never, ever be treated as criminals and deserve assistance, and it steps up our efforts to prevent trafficking by increasing awareness so the public will recognize and report suspected cases. This bill will put Rhode Island in a much better position to prevent trafficking, catch and prosecute perpetrators, and free victims and connect them to services that they need.”

The legislation, which was drafted by the Uniform Law Commission and has been adopted by eight other states so far, makes trafficking of a minor a felony punishable by up to 50 years imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $40,000. Trafficking of an adult would be punishable by up to 20 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $20,000.

Those patronizing a minor for sexual servitude would also be guilty of a felony and subject to up to 20 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $20,000. Those who patronize an adult victim of sexual servitude would face up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.

Additionally, the bill promotes partnerships in the fight against human trafficking and establishes a council on human trafficking to coordinate prevention efforts and establish programs to assist victims. It would also make victims eligible for compensation under the criminal injuries compensation act.

Senator Coyne, a retired State Police lieutenant, said she sponsored the legislation because this form of modern-day slavery is rampant, often unrecognized by the public and devastating to its victims.

“Human trafficking is a widespread problem in the United States and Rhode Island, and it takes an enormous toll on the lives of its victims, many of whom are very young. We must do more to recognize and stop this problem, starting with greater public understanding of the scope of the problem and what it looks like. We need to make sure that we can promise victims safety and assistance so they are not more terrified of escaping than they are of their captors, and we need to keep perpetrators from sliding through the cracks caused by differences in states’ laws so they are stopped in their tracks. We owe it to their victims to do our very best to bring them to justice and to prevent others from being victimized in the future,” she said.

The legislation is cosponsored by Sen. Elaine J. Morgan (R-Dist. 34, Hopkinton, Richmond, Charlestown, Exeter, West Greenwich), Sen. Frank S. Lombardi (D-Dist. 26, Cranston), Sen. Paul V. Jabour (D-Dist. 5, Providence) and Sen. Stephen R. Archambault (D-Dist. 22, Smithfield, North Providence, Johnston). It will now go to the House of Representatives, where companion legislation (2017-H 5300) has been introduced by Rep. Shelby Maldonado (D-Dist. 56, Central Falls).

For more information, contact:
Meredyth R. Whitty, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 222-1923