Speaker’s Commission on Public Policy held its first policy summit on October 3, 2018 and examined human trafficking in Mississippi.
The speaking panel included representatives from the Human Trafficking Institute, Shared Hope, FREE International, The Center for Violence Prevention, and local and federal prosecutors.
The largest legislative gap is related to minor victims. Mississippi is among the top fifteen states with the strongest laws addressing child sex trafficking, but the following recommendations will improve the state’s performance.
Legislative Priority #1: Provide blanket immunity to minors under the prostitution statute.
Problem: Child sex trafficking victims are immune from criminal liability under the prostitution statute; however, not all commercially sexually exploited youth are being identified as child sex trafficking victims for purposes of receiving this protection. Rather than hinging immunity on victimization, the prostitution statute should be limited in applicability to adults 18 years of age or older.
State examples: Florida, Indiana, Minnesota, North Carolina, Tennessee d. Resources:
Legislative Priority #2: Develop statutory pathways to specialized services for youth survivors of sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation.
Problem: While state law charges CPS and DHS with investigating all child sex trafficking cases, cases of non-familial trafficking are often referred to law enforcement. Additionally, state law does not require that specialized services be made available to minors who have experienced exploitation.
At the time of publishing, the Speaker’s office continues to collaborate and research the best practices that are attainable in Mississippi, and plans to introduce legislation addressing these gaps during the 2019 legislative session.