For immediate release:
Jan. 21, 2015
INDIANAPOLIS - An Indiana House Committee today passed legislation championed by State Rep. Melanie Wright (D-Yorktown) that accelerates the process of bringing human and sexual trafficking victims to safety.
The Indiana House Family, Children, & Human Affairs Committee unanimously approved House Bill 1216 that requires the Indiana State Police to produce and distribute informational pamphlets to all law enforcement agencies and any individual reporting a missing child at the time of the report.
Pamphlets must include both twenty-four hour toll-free numbers and a summary of services provided by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children as well as the National Runaway Safeline.
“Some Hoosiers may not realize the runaway and human trafficking crises are so bad in this state,” said Wright. “Unfortunately, the grim truth is that I-65 between Chicago and Louisville has become a convenient corridor for this type of crime. It’s happening daily in Indiana.
“These pamphlets offer emotionally distraught parents a sense of hope and a plan of action for recovering their missing children. I so strongly believe in this legislation that I have asked to sign on as a co-author,” she added.
[In this 27-second mp3 audio clip, Rep. Wright summarizes some of the testimony given at today's committee hearing during which HB 1216 was endorsed and sent to the House floor for further action.]
According to Tippecanoe County Prosecutor Patrick Herrington, victims are commonly arrested for underage prostitution, booked into jails using false identification, and bonded out by their captors. Many times those children are then taken out of state and virtually become “ghosts.”
“Victims are scared, traumatized, and isolated. We want them to seek help without fearing prosecution,” said Wright. “Indiana was one of the few states that had no previous defenses for children who had been victimized by human trafficking. This bill gives amnesty to these individuals and recognizes them as victims, not criminals.
“Forced labor and sexual human trafficking are interstate activities. This legislation will speed up the search process across state lines,” she added.
In an effort to prevent the victims from vanishing with their abductors, HB 1216 allows the Department of Child Services to take jurisdiction of a child, acting as a stand-in legal guardian, to reunite them with their family or put them in a safe house.
HB 1216, authored by State Rep. Randy Truitt (R-Lafayette), will now advance to the full House for consideration.