Friday, April 11, 2014

Lawmakers nix locked facilities from human trafficking bill
Lawmakers nix locked facilities from human trafficking bill
Two bills that would help close the circle on the Florida Safe Harbor Act no longer call for a pilot locked facility for badly traumatized victims of human trafficking.
On Thursday morning, HB 7141 sponsor Gayle Harrell, R-Stuart, presented an amendment that did away with the proposed locked “safe house” and instead, introduced language that further outlined criteria to make sure victims are offered more opportunities for treatment.
Also, Harrell proposed the commission of a study by the state Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability to track victims as they move through the recovery process.
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Harrell’s bill unanimously passed the Health and Human Services Committee.
“Sometimes, you have to give a little first to move things down the road,” she said.
Passed in 2012, the Safe Harbor Act decriminalized those who fit the description of human trafficking victims but offered no processes for trauma recovery. The House bill and its Senate companion would provide the state Department of Children and Families with guidelines to assess victims and provide housing in safe facilities or foster homes.  The concept of a locked facility was developed to free victims from a dependence on exploiters defined as a “trauma band” but faced several constitutional issues. The state would have required a judge's order to involuntarily hold a sex trafficking victim, but courts were too busy to keep up at the same pace.
Harrell remained adamant about the locked facility but it became a lightning rod for a bill that otherwise received resounding bipartisan support. She was confident existing laws such as the Baker and Marchman acts would provide similar avenues that break the malignant reliance victims had on pimps and other offenders.
Harrell also said the idea of a locked facility was not dead and the results of the OPPAGA study would determine its importance.
“I think you have children who will run away and will go back out on the street,” she said, later adding, “Some of those children will die.”
Also on Thursday, Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, presented similar amendments duringSenate Appropriations where SB 1724 passed unanimously.
Contact reporter Arek Sarkissian at

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