HARRISBURG (June 7, 2018) –  State Senator Andy Dinniman joined legislative colleagues and advocates at a press conference and rally to announce that a new measure to protect juvenile victims of human trafficking is advancing through the legislature.

Senate Bill 554, of which Dinniman is a strong supporter and co-sponsor, was unanimously voted out of the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.

The bill will now go to the House floor for a final vote.

Watch Senator Dinniman’s discuss human trafficking at a press conference and rally in the state capitol in Harrisburg in support of Senate Bill 554.

It aims to protect juvenile victims of human trafficking from potential prosecution by diverting them into appropriate human services programs rather than the criminal justice system. As a result, victims would be able to receive specialized trauma healthcare and therapy, as well as victim services provided by social workers.

<<Watch the Press Conference Here>>

“Human trafficking knows no borders. It strikes in some of our most impoverished communities and our wealthiest enclaves alike,” Dinniman said. “At the end of the day, this is a matter of protecting all children and victims by ensuring they get the support and recovery services they need, rather than trying to hold them accountable for crimes they were forced into.

“Let’s give our law enforcement professionals the tools they need to bring human traffickers to justice and our human services personnel the resources they need to help victims begin and stay on the path to recovery,” he added.

Senate Bill 554 also calls for:

  • Specialized training for police officers to identify and assist sexually exploited children.
  • The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services to develop and implement a statewide protocol to deliver safe and stable housing, education and life-skills training, and counseling to the children who have been exploited.

Dinniman also thanked the bill’s prime sponsor, Senator Stewart Greenleaf, who serves as majority chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, for his longstanding and bipartisan work in the battle against human trafficking.

“Our work is not done,” Greenleaf said. “We need the House to act quickly to bring this bill to a vote and pass. Predators, we are coming for you and the exploitation of children is going to stop.”

Dinniman was also a driving force in passing Act 105 of 2014 (Senate Bill 75), which improves and better defines Pennsylvania’s human trafficking laws so that they can be better utilized by law enforcement.

The law gave Pennsylvania its first comprehensive legal definition of human trafficking and provided other tools to combat the crime. It also strengthened protections for victims both during any subsequent court processes and afterward in the form of civil action against their traffickers.

Dinniman also praised residents, groups, churches and organizations, like the Chester County Anti-Human Trafficking Coalition, for continuing to stand for the abolitionist tradition of our region that began with the Quakers.

“More than 150 years ago, Chester County was the center of the underground railroad because people of faith and good conscience stepped forward and stood against the injustice of slavery. Today, we are still standing for what is good and what is right as the center of a new abolitionist movement – one to put an end to human trafficking in all its forms, be it the sex trade or forced labor,” Dinniman said.

According to Covenant House, 1 in 5 homeless or runaway children have been a victim of trafficking. Thirty-four states already have Safe Harbor laws. It is estimated that over 100,000 children are sexually exploited in the United States every year and 273 cases were reported in Pennsylvania in 2016.

 

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