Gov. Rick Perry today was joined by state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, Rep. Senfronia Thompson and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott to discuss legislation that would strengthen penalties for those convicted of human trafficking. Sen. Van de Putte and Rep. Thompson are sponsoring legislation to address this issue, and General Abbott leads the Attorney General's Task Force on Human Trafficking.
"Trapped between the law and the lawless, victims of human trafficking suffer under inhumane conditions, forced into activities they'd never imagined with their captors threatening to kill them, or even their families, if they don't comply," Gov. Perry said. "In Texas, we must do everything possible to ensure more people don't fall into the trap of human trafficking, and to make sure that the people behind these insidious acts pay the price for their crimes."
SB 24 and HB 7 contain proposals from the Attorney General's Task Force on Human Trafficking, which include 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.
"As startling as it is to imagine that human trafficking is occurring in our state, the reality is that this form of modern day slavery does take place," Sen. Van de Putte said. "We must do everything possible to severely punish those who profit from this heinous crime and help victims regain their dignity."
HB 3000 and SB 1436 create the Continuous Trafficking of Persons offense, a first degree felony with terms that range from 25-99 years to life, which the governor called on the Legislature to create in August 2010. Modeled after Jessica's Law, Continuous Trafficking of Persons applies to offenders who commit human trafficking two or more times during a period of 30 days or more. The legislation also requires notice of bail reductions, requires a two-thirds vote of the Board of Pardons on Paroles for release on parole, and makes Continuous Trafficking of Persons a crime eligible for automatic life without parole for a subsequent continuous trafficking conviction.
"Less than 10 years ago almost no one knew what human trafficking was, or how big a problem it would become. Now one of the world's most heinous and prevalent crimes, human trafficking demands attention," Rep. Thompson said. "Texas was one of the first states to really address this, and today we continue to be at the forefront of this issue. This session we are on the verge of passing several key pieces of legislation that address not only the victims of this crime but the perpetrators that prey on them."
"Human traffickers use force, fraud and coercion to essentially enslave their victims and compel them to work against their will for little or no pay," General Abbott said. "By continuing to foster cooperation among law enforcement agencies at all levels, Texas will become increasingly 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 from criminal activities, to services for victims, to methods to counteract human trafficking, and issued a report on their findings in January 2011. Rep. Thompson also hosted the International Conference on Human Trafficking in October 2010.