Human trafficking court bills advance

A proposal to let courts create specialized divisions to handle human trafficking cases received the unanimous backing Thursday of the House Judiciary Committee.

State Rep. Julie Stokes, R-Kenner, said her House Bill 569 would allow judges to better steer victims to support services, rather than jail for drug crimes or prostitution that are tied to trafficking.

“What you find in human trafficking victims is that often the only point that we have the chance to reach out to them is in a court setting,” she said.

The creation of a special division or section of a court to handle human trafficking cases would allow for a judge to get specialized training about available support services.

If a special human trafficking division exists in a judicial district, all prostitution-related cases would be steered to that division.

The measure, which moves next to the full House for consideration, is backed by Gov. Bobby Jindal, along with a second proposal, House Bill 1025, by state Rep. Neil Abramson, D-New Orleans, that would create harsher punishments for human trafficking and related crimes.

Col. Mike Edmonson, superintendent of Louisiana State Police, said human trafficking is a significant problem in Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

He supported Stokes’ HB569.