By Beth Musgrave
FRANKFORT — Since Kentucky passed its first human trafficking law in 2008, more than 100 victims of human trafficking have been identified, but fewer than 20 of those cases have been prosecuted.
Advocates hope that if House Bill 3 passes the Republican-led Senate this legislative session, more of those cases will be prosecuted and more victims of human trafficking will be identified and treated rather than prosecuted.
The Democrat-led House unanimously passed HB 3 on Friday and it now heads to the Senate. The House approved a similar bill last year but it failed in the Senate.
Rep. Sannie Overly, D-Paris, told the House on Friday that human trafficking is not just an international issue or an issue in big cities. Since 2008, there have been at least 18 state and federal human trafficking court cases in Kentucky. The vast majority of those cases involve Kentucky teens — mainly girls — who have been trafficked for sex by a relative.
“We need tougher laws in Kentucky to address this situation,” Overly said. “For those who think that human trafficking only happens in big cities … in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, it does. But it is also going on in our backyards. The time is now and the time is right.”
HB 3 would strengthen punishments for violating human trafficking laws, increase police training on how to deal with human trafficking, allow prosecutors to take assets and cash from those who are convicted of human trafficking, and allow that money to be used to treat human trafficking victims. The bill would also allow victims of human trafficking to receive services through the Cabinet for Health and Human Services rather than face criminal prosecution.