By Zach Osowski
A bill that enacts much harsher penalties on human
traffickers passed a Senate committee 9-0 Thursday as lawmakers pushed to get
the bill passed quickly.
With the Super Bowl
Bowlone month away, legislators are facing a time crunch to get Senate
Bill 4 — and other legislation — passed before football fans arrive
That's because the sex trade — and the human
traffickers that drive some of it — will be arriving in Indianapolis for
the game. The bill is meant to make it easier for prosecutors to address sex
crimes in February but supporters say it will also address a problem that has
been growing for a long time.
"It is crucial we get this done before the Super
Bowl," Sen. Randy Head
Randy Head, R-Logansport, told the committee. "We need to have a plan
in place. This law will broaden the definition of human trafficking and
increase the penalties."
The proposal increases the charge for human trafficking
trafficking— which can include the recruiting, harboring or selling
of a person for purposes of prostitution, commercial sex acts, forced labor or
involuntary servitude — to a Class B felony, punishable by up to 20 years
in prison and a $10,000 fine. If the crime involves a child under age 16, the
charge would be an A felony, punishable by up to 50 years in prison with a fine
as high as $10,000.
Currently, human trafficking is charged as a C felony,
punishable by up to eight years in prison and a $10,000 fine. It only becomes
an A felony under current law, if a parent or legal guardian is charged will selling a child.
Marion County Deputy Prosecutor Mary Hutchinson is someone
who has firsthand experience dealing with trafficking. She emphasized that the
bill should be passed as soon as possible, but not just for the Super Bowl.
Human trafficking is a growing problem according to
Hutchinson, and the proposed law is something that is very necessary not just
for the Super Bowl, but for any event that might bring in large crowds.
"Increasing the punishment from C to a B felony is a
key change," Hutchinson said.
Human trafficking is something that not many people know
about, but the numbers suggest that it is a rather large, global industry, said
David Miller, a deputy Indiana attorney general. He provided lawmakers with
statistics about the international trafficking problem.
"Human trafficking is a $32 billion industry
internationally," Miller said. "There are
12.3 million people trafficked across country borders every single year. This
bill can make a difference today."
The bill deals only with those that supply the victims, not
those that pay for the services, a point that was brought up by committee
member Sen. Greg Taylor
Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis. Although he voted to move out of committee,
Taylor was adamant that more should be done to punish those that create a
demand for the services.
Miller acknowledged that the bill doesn't address that
issue. He assured Taylor, however, that there is a law dealing with those
people. Under current law, it is a class C felony to purchase a sex slave,
The bill now moves to the full Senate for consideration.
Head hopes get the bill to Gov. Mitch Daniel's desk by the end of this month.
The above is one of an ongoing series of reports from the Statehouse File by students at the Franklin College Pulliam School of Journalism.