Thursday, July 21, 2011
Texas' Human Trafficking Prevention Task Force Convenes In HoustonHOUSTON – Texas’ Human Trafficking Prevention Task Force today convened in Houston to discuss new human trafficking prevention laws that were recently enacted by the Texas Legislature. During the 82nd Session, legislators adopted multiple recommendations that were included in the Task Force’s 2011 biennial report.
Officials representing local law enforcement agencies, prosecutors and non-governmental organizations focused on Senate Bill 24, which was sponsored by Sen. Leticia Van de Putte and Rep. Senfronia Thompson. Under the new law, human traffickers face tougher criminal penalties and young trafficking victims are afforded additional protections.
Senate Bill 24 implements the Human Trafficking Prevention Task Force’s recommendations by:
• creating legally distinct definitions of sex trafficking and labor trafficking,
• increasing penalties for compelling prostitution of a child to a first-degree felony,
• adding human trafficking offenses to the list of crimes for which a life sentence in prison is automatic for two or more trafficking offense convictions, and
• requiring convicted sex traffickers to register in the Texas Sex Offender registry.
Task Force members also discussed the civil remedies that SB 24 allows victims to pursue against human traffickers. Under SB 24, a child’s parent or guardian is authorized to seek a protective order against their child’s trafficker. The law also allows courts to treat child victims in sex trafficking cases the same way they treat sexual assault victims. Judges will be given discretion to order that convicted human traffickers serve consecutive – rather than cumulative – prison sentences.
The Human Trafficking Prevention Task Force was created with the passage of House Bill 4009 by Sen. Van de Putte and Rep. Randy Weber during the 81st Legislative Session. Under that bill, a statewide task force of law enforcement officials and crime victim services personnel was formed to help fight the State’s battle against human trafficking.
In August 2010, the Governor’s Office awarded the Office of the Attorney General and the Human Trafficking Prevention Task Force a $291,000 grant to fund a financial analyst, a peace officer and a prosecutor to assist with the identification, investigation and prosecution of human trafficking cases statewide. All three positions have been filled and are currently participating in human trafficking prevention and enforcement operations.