Alabama commended for progress in fight against human trafficking

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Image courtesy of USIAHT

TAMPA, Fla. – The U.S. Institute Against Human Trafficking in its July 2021 newsletter proclaimed, “Alabama Officials Leading The Way In Combatting Sex Trafficking,” and commended the state’s Child Trafficking Solutions Project and its “TraffickingFree Zone” program.

The article read, in part, “USIAHT has made tremendous inroads in the state of Alabama with the TraffickingFree Zone (TFZ) program. Our strategic partnership with the Child Trafficking Solutions Project (CTSP), a statewide coalition of anti-human trafficking organizations, local, state and federal law enforcement, government agencies, NGOs, child protective services and survivor care providers have expanded TFZ programs throughout the state.

“The success of the TFZ program led elected leaders in Alabama to enact public policies during the recently concluded state legislative session that will positively impact the lives of survivors of sex trafficking, crackdown on sex buyers and better identify victims of trafficking.”

USIAHT noted the state legislature’s 2021 passage of Senate Bill 117, now Act 2021-286 following Gov. Kay Ivey’s signature, which allows victims of human trafficking to expunge criminal records for offences charged as a result of their being trafficked. Such offenses often include prostitution, child pornography and drug charges. The act also removes the administrative fees associated with filing for such expungement. The Democratic Party-sponsored bill drew Yea votes from Sen. Garlan Gudger, Rep. Corey Harbison and Rep. Randall Shedd; Rep. Scott Stadhagen voted against the bill.

The article also pointed out 2021 House Bill 130, now Act 2021-267, which allows judges to deny bail to individuals charged with 1st degree human trafficking, among other offenses. The bill was co-sponsored by 28 Republican representatives, including Shedd. It received unanimous votes in both houses by all legislators present, including all members of Cullman County’s delegation.

USIAHT additionally stated, “As part of the state’s increased focus on fighting sex trafficking overall, Alabama has also created its first statewide human trafficking task force.”

Cullman County Human Trafficking Task Force Chairperson Kathy Wilson responded to the article, “It feels really good to know that Alabama is leading the way in the fight against human trafficking. The City of Cullman is a TraffickingFree Zone, along with many other cities in the state. We are also working with the Junior League of Birmingham to get informational posters into the rest stops all across the state. 

“Thank you Alabama, for recognizing that there is a problem and supporting the effort to protect our citizens. Here in Cullman, we will continue our work to raise awareness and educate our community to combat human trafficking and protect our quality of life.”

The report concluded, “Throughout the state, the expansion of the TFZ program and an increased focus by elected officials and our non-governmental allies in combating trafficking and restoring survivors are moving mountains in the Yellowhammer State.”

The U.S. Institute Against Human Trafficking is a faith-based non-profit organization “working to end human trafficking in the United States through prevention, combating demand, rescuing victims, influencing government policy and providing safe refuge for the restoration of survivors,” according to its website. For more information, visit https://usiaht.org

For information on local efforts to combat human trafficking, visit https://www.facebook.com/Cullman-County-Human-Trafficking-Task-Force-870585096352748/

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W.C. Mann

craig@cullmantribune.com