Tougher human trafficking laws sought

In praising legislation to further curtail human trafficking, Clemmie Greenlee told reporters Tuesday that she was “snatched up,” gang-raped and forced into prostitution at the age of 12.

“I shouldn’t have had to go to jail over 100 times and the predator got nothing,” said Greenlee, now in her 40s and working in New Orleans for a program that helps victims of children forced into the sex trade.

She spoke at a news conference Gov. Bobby Jindal called to announce his support of two bills that would make it easier for law enforcement and the judiciary to treat girls like Greenlee as victims instead of criminals, create harsher penalties for traffickers and their customers and allow local courts to create specialized divisions that would handle human trafficking cases.

“These bills will continue our previous efforts to deter criminals from engaging in these heinous acts, and together, we can truly make a difference in the fight to end this modern-day slavery,” said Jindal, who added that national groups ranked Baton Rouge as a top 10 site for human trafficking crimes.

“For those monsters who want to prey on innocent women and children,” Jindal said, “we’re going to make this state the worst place for you to be. Our goal is not to deter you, but to make you extinct and to eradicate our state of this behavior.”

State Rep. Neil Abramson, D-New Orleans, who had sponsored early bills that already make Louisiana laws among the toughest in the nation, filed House Bill 1025. HB 1025 targets those purchasing sex and expands the crime of trafficking children for sexual purposes to include the act of receiving, isolating and enticing another person in order to engage in sexual services or labor.

The bill also would allow courts to seize and sell traffickers’ property, such as computers and vehicles. The money would go into a fund to benefit exploited children. The bill also would allow up to half of the fund to be used to train law enforcement on how to recognize and respond to trafficking cases.

“I introduced legislation in 2009, 2010 and 2012 to improve Louisiana’s laws on human trafficking and our efforts took Louisiana from the bottom of the list of states graded on human trafficking laws and have made Louisiana a model for other states,” Abramson said. “However, we never want to rest if there’s more we can do, and there is.”

Rep. Valarie Hodges, R-Denham Springs, and Sen. Gerald Long, R-Winnfield, are co-sponsoring HB 1025. The legislation was the product of a bipartisan, joint House and Senate commission that drafted the bill.

House Bill 569 filed by Rep. Julie Stokes, R-Kenner, would authorize human trafficking courts that would emphasize training for judges on the issues involved in human trafficking and specialize in hearing cases involving prostitution-related offenses for the purpose of identifying victims.