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Maryland passes law aimed at protecting trafficked children.

Apr 06, 2023

Maryland lawmakers on Tuesday passed a bill to protect child victims of sex trafficking in an about-face on legislation that had died within the final 30 minutes of the General Assembly’s session last year.

The law, known as Safe Harbor, prohibits authorities from arresting and charging child victims of sex trafficking or human trafficking of certain crimes committed as a result of trafficking, such as trespassing, misdemeanor theft or prostitution.
Maryland is joining 27 other states and the District of Columbia in having legal protections for trafficked minors as recognition grows across the country about the need for policies that reflect the manipulation and intimidation that traffickers employ to control their victims — especially child victims.
Maryland’s laws have been “behind the curve,” said Lisae C. Jordan, the executive director and counsel for the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault, adding that other states such as New York passed Safe Harbor laws more than a decade ago. (New York passed its legislation in 2008.)
“It’s not enough to say we won’t prosecute someone for prostitution,” Jordan said. “We need to create a system that gives them services instead of prosecution.”
Maryland was one of 37 to receive an “F” grade in 2022 from the advocacy group Shared Hope International for its statutes related to and affecting the sex trafficking of children and youths.
Just over 1 in 10 survivors of human trafficking identified in a five-year review conducted by the University of Maryland SAFE Center for Human Trafficking Survivors was 17 or younger. The analysis, published in 2020, identified 265 survivors, but advocates say the activity is chronically underreported.
The law requires that law enforcement tell local child welfare agencies if a youth is suspected of being trafficked and that officers release the minor to parents, guardians or custodians or to the local child welfare agency if there is reason to think that the minor in endangered by parents or guardians.
Advocates of the legislation said refinements to this year’s proposal and lawmakers’ evolving understanding of the pressures on sex-trafficked youths made the difference this year.
You could read more of this Washington Post article here.