Cullman County Human Trafficking Task Force: The Year of the Untrafficked Child

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Image courtesy of the Child Trafficking Solutions Project

CULLMAN, Ala. – The Children’s Policy Council of Jefferson County has declared 2019 the “Year of the Untrafficked Child” in Alabama and, during this year’s legislative session, a bipartisan effort strengthened the state’s response to the issue of human trafficking.  Rep. Merika Coleman, D-Birmingham introduced two new bills in the House of Representatives, and Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster oversaw the movement of each through the Senate.

The Cullman County Human Trafficking Task Force’s Kathy Wilson shared with The Tribune:

“We are steps closer to eradicating human trafficking in the state of Alabama, thanks to the passing of two bills and two resolutions.  House Bill 261 requires all new commercial driver licensees to undergo industry-specific human trafficking training.  Truckers Against Trafficking, a national organization that trains truckers on identifying human trafficking victims in their daily work life, will work with junior colleges and trade schools to facilitate the training.

“With the passage of HB261, Alabama becomes the ninth state to partner with Truckers Against Trafficking and pass a law mandating human trafficking training for new CDL drivers.  Gov. (Kay) Ivey signed this law this week.”

House Bill 262, referred to as the “John Shaming” law, passed, but an issue with the wording led the governor to decline signing the bill before the end of the session.

Wilson explained, “HB262 would have clarified existing law to prohibit publishing photos of those charged with the act of prostitution, while allowing for publishing photos of those charged with soliciting or procuring prostitution.  This bill was aimed at deterring ‘Johns’ from purchasing sex and supporting human trafficking, while protecting potential victims of human trafficking from public identification.  However, a last-minute amendment by Sen. Tim Melson, R-Florence, intended to protect innocent ‘Johns’ from public exposure, contained a drafting error that made HB262 more ambiguous and potentially detrimental for victims.  For that reason, Gov. Ivey’s staff advised her to pocket veto the bill.

“The bill will be re-introduced next year, and Rep. Merika Coleman, D-Birmingham plans to work closely with the Governor’s Office and her Republican counterparts to ensure passage of a clean bill.”

Legislative resolutions support anti-trafficking efforts

The Legislature also passed two human trafficking resolutions:

  • House Joint Resolution 145 encourages the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency to continue developing a curriculum to ensure that law enforcement officers across the state are trained to recognize and respond to human trafficking.  
  • HJR 244 creates the Alabama Healthcare Human Trafficking Training Program Commission, which is tasked with developing a training module for all health care-related employees to readily identify and provide trauma-centered care for human trafficking victims.

Said Wilson, “With the passing of these bills and resolutions, we are taking giant steps to end this horrific crime.  A statement has been made: ‘Not in our state!  We will protect our children from traffickers.’”

For more on The Year of the Untrafficked Child, visit www.facebook.com/YearOfTheUntraffickedChild/.

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W.C. Mann

craig@cullmantribune.com