Gov. Rick Perry today ceremonially signed two bills creating stiffer penalties for individuals who commit human trafficking in Texas, House Bill 3000 and Senate Bill 24. The governor was joined by Rep. Senfronia Thompson, Sen. Leticia Van de Putte and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott for the signing ceremony.
"Human traffickers exploit their victims' hopes and dreams, promising better days and better lives but delivering them instead into a world that's nothing more than modern-day slavery," Gov. Perry said. "Hopefully, when human traffickers understand their own freedom and profits are on the line, perhaps for the rest of their lives, they will think twice about continuing to engage in these criminal activities."
HB 3000 creates a new first-degree felony in the Penal Code called Continuous Trafficking of Persons, which applies to individuals who commit two or more acts of human trafficking in a period of 30 days or more. Under HB 3000, the punishment range for a first time offender is 25-99 years or life imprisonment, and a fine up to $10,000. If convicted a second time, the offense carries a punishment of life without parole. HB 3000 also adds Continuous Trafficking of Persons to the list of offenses that do not have a limitation period for filing charges, alters parole consideration and requires a vote of two-thirds of the members of the Board of Pardons and Paroles before release, and further limits bail and bond considerations for a person charged with Continuous Trafficking of Persons.
"This session, Texas proved that our state was going to continue to be a leader in the fight against human trafficking. I am so thankful to my colleagues in the House and the Senate for working together to aid all the victims of this heinous crime," Rep. Thompson said. "I want to thank Gov. Perry for his drive and determination to continue Texas' strong approach towards tackling this atrocious crime. We are moving beyond talk, taking real action against human trafficking, and working 24/7 to put these pimps out of business."
SB 24 contains proposals from the Attorney General's Task Force on Human Trafficking, including creating a new offense for compelling prostitution for adult and child victims, stronger parole requirements for trafficking offenses that require offenders to serve longer prison time, eliminating release on mandatory supervision, and stronger restrictions on bond release. The bill also designates two prosecutable forms of human trafficking - forced labor and forced sexual acts - and applies the first degree felony punishment of 5-99 years or life and a fine up to $10,000 if a child is the victim of either form of trafficking.
"By passing strong legislation against human trafficking, Texas is taking a necessary step to eliminate this seedy, vile crime that robs human dignity and exploits vulnerable victims," Sen. Van de Putte said. "I am proud to join my colleagues to protect trafficking victims from this greedy and egregious crime."
"With the passage and signing of these measures, Gov. Perry, Sen. Leticia Van de Putte and Rep. Senfronia Thompson have given law enforcement crucial new tools to combat human trafficking in the State of Texas," General Abbott said. "Human traffickers use force, fraud and coercion to compel their victims into modern-day slavery. By increasing penalties for traffickers and continuing to foster cooperation among law enforcement, these measures will help ensure Texas remains hostile territory for human traffickers."
Sen. Van de Putte sponsored, and Gov. Perry signed, legislation in 2009 that created the Attorney General's Human Trafficking Task Force. She also served as a member of the task force, which studied aspects of human trafficking ranging from criminal activities, to services for victims, to methods to counteract human trafficking. The task force issued a report on their findings in January 2011. Rep. Thompson also hosted the International Conference on Human Trafficking in October 2010.
To see what Rep. Thompson and Sen. Van de Putte had to say about ending human trafficking in Texas, please visit http://governor.state.tx.us/video/interviews/15878/ and http://governor.state.tx.us/video/interviews/15873/.