A group of South Carolinians are committed to fighting human trafficking, and they have a novel idea about who should be footing the bill for stopping slavery: the traffickers themselves. That's why a group of activists plan to descend on the capitol next week to demand the passage of an asset forfeiture law for human trafficking. Their advocacy should make activists across the country wonder, "who pays for the fight against trafficking in my state?" January 11 is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, as well as the day South Carolina legislators return from recess. So activists from the Eastern Carolina Coalition Against Human Trafficking intend to use this fortuitous date to lobby for SC H4522, which would create asset forfeiture for human traffickers. If passed, the law would mean that all money, valuables, and property belonging to anyone convicted of human trafficking that were used in connection with, or gained from the crime, be forfeited to the State. Those funds, which in some cases can amount to very large sums, would be used to pay for victim services (including legal fees for victims), the prosecution of traffickers, and the cost of investigating human trafficking cases. The forfeited assets could also be used for public education and outreach on human trafficking in South Carolina. The goal of the law is to make sure that human traffickers literally pay for their crimes.
Activists from across the state will gather in Columbia on 1/11/11 to demand that SC H4522 become law, and that traffickers be the ones to foot the bill for their crimes in South Carolina.
Asset forfeiture laws are incredibly important in the fight against human trafficking. When states have the power to seize valuables from traffickers, that money can then be used to help victims pay for housing, counseling, medical care, and legal fees. States who may be reluctant to investigate human trafficking crimes due to budget concerns, which are often expensive to investigate and prosecute, may be more likely to do so if asset forfeiture is a possible outcome. Furthermore, some victims feel that taking away their trafficker's money, that which he or she valued most, is a path to justice. But despite all these benefits, few states have asset forfeiture laws for human trafficking.
But you can help change that by following the example of the Eastern Carolina Coalition Against Human Trafficking and demanding human trafficking asset forfeiture laws in your state. First, find out whether or not your state has an asset forfeiture law for human trafficking by checking here or here. If your state doesn't have an asset forfeiture law, ask your legislators to create one by starting a petition on Change.org. Once you've done that, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll help you promote it. Let's make sure that no matter what state they enslave and exploit people in, human traffickers pay the price for their crimes.