Also addresses forfeiture of assets by those who enslave individuals for forced labor or prostitution
Believed to be one of the world's fastest growing criminal enterprises and an estimated $32 billion a year global industry, human trafficking is the world's second most profitable criminal enterprise, a status it shares with illegal arms trafficking.
To tackle the growing problem in Rhode Island, Attorney General Kilmartin put forth legislation to strengthen the state's ability to prosecute those who engage in human trafficking and to allow the state to more easily seize assets of those who profit from the illegal enslavement and forced prostitution of individuals.
The legislation – H7612, sponsored by Representative Mary Duffy Messier (D-District 62, Pawtucket) – is scheduled to be heard before the House Committee on Judiciary on Wednesday, March 19, 2014. The senate companion bill is sponsored by Senator Erin Lynch (D-District 31, Cranston, Warwick).
"Like drugs and arms trafficking, the United States is one of the top destination countries for human trafficking. To better protect victims of human trafficking and effectively prosecute those who enforce individuals into slavery, we need to strengthen our current statute," said Attorney General Kilmartin.
This act amends §11-67-3 ("Trafficking of Persons for Forced Labor or Commercial Sexual Activity") to clarify that trafficking applies to both forced labor and commercial sexual activity. Currently, the section provides that in order to prove trafficking, the State would have to provide that the person trafficked another knowing that they would be subject to forced labor in order to commit commercial sexual activity. Forced labor and commercial sexual activity are two distinct acts under that chapter and should be treated as such.
The act also amends § 11-67-5 ("Forfeitures") to clarify that the forfeiture proceeds for violations of chapter 11-67 are consistent with the forfeiture proceedings of other criminal offenses.
"Going after the profits of those who enslave human beings, combined with string criminal penalties, goes at the heart of the illegal and immoral activity of using people for forced labor and prostitution," added Kilmartin.
Since coming into office in 2011, Attorney General Kilmartin has actively fought to end human trafficking in Rhode Island. Under his leadership, the Office successfully prosecuted the first human trafficking case since passage of the law in 2007 and its amendment in 2009. In addition, Kilmartin has been a vocal advocate in urging Congress to act on legislation that would give states greater authority to prosecute those who engage in human trafficking through the Internet on sites like Backpage.com. Attorney General Kilmartin also participated in the Rhode Island Coalition to End Human Trafficking 2011 campaign, "Time to End the Demand," lending his voice and name to the statewide advertising campaign to end human trafficking.
Attorney General Kilmartin and prosecutors from the Office have led law enforcement trainings on best practices on how to identify and investigate suspected cases of human trafficking. Recently, Attorney General Kilmartin participated in a two-day conference sponsored by the Rhode Island Family Court on human trafficking, which discussed ways to identify human trafficking, resources for victims and best practices in investigating and prosecuting those who enslave individuals for the commercial sex industry.