For immediate release:
March 16, 2015
INDIANAPOLIS - Legislation co-authored by State Rep. Melanie Wright (D-Yorktown) that would speed up the rescue of missing children and trafficking victims is advancing to Indiana Gov. Mike Pence for final approval. State Rep. Randy Truitt (R-West Lafayette) authored the bill, which the full Indiana Senate passed today by a vote of 49-0.
House Bill 1216 would require state police to distribute trafficking pamphlets to law enforcement agencies and any person who files a missing child report. Since Senators made no changes to the legislation, it advances directly to the governor for his consideration.
“Pamphlets will include the twenty-four hour toll-free numbers for the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and the National Runaway Safeline, as well as a summary of their services,” Wright said. “At the very least, the pamphlets can provide emotionally distraught parents with a sense of hope and plan of action for recovering their missing children.”
HB 1216 also defends child victims of human or sexual trafficking against prostitution charges.
The Tippecanoe County Prosecutor says victims are commonly arrested for underage prostitution, booked into jails under false identification, and bonded out by their captors. Many times victimized children are then taken out of state and virtually become ghosts.
“This legislation changes the conversation from a juvenile delinquency issue to a child protection issue,” noted Wright. “Trafficking victims are traumatized, isolated, and scared. We want victims to seek help without fearing prosecution for prostitution.
“We want the children to be recognized as victims, not criminals,” she added.
To prevent victims from vanishing with their abductors, HB 1216 authorizes the Department of Children Services to act as a stand-in legal guardian. The department would then reunite the child with their family or put them in a safe house.
More incidents of human trafficking are starting to come to light in Indiana. In 2014, the attorney general’s office reported 100 trafficking cases.
In addition to Wright, HB 1216 was so popular that it attracted a large number of supporters in both the House and Senate.