Opposition to Maryland SB904

 

Maryland Must Rethink Its Misguided Human Trafficking Law—Not Make it Worse

Opposition Statement to Maryland HB241/SB904-2015

(To go directly to endorsement page: www.surveymonkey.com/s/P6HXV2Z)

Across the country, there is a growing concern that laws designed to protect victims of trafficking are needlessly criminalizing people who have no role in forcing, defrauding, or coercing others into sex work or other labor. Even adult victims of trafficking are being arrested and treated in the criminal justice system as if they were perpetrators. We, the undersigned, are individuals and organizations who share this concern and believe we can create policy that holds perpetrators of violence accountable without violating the rights of victims and others.

Supporters of HB241/SB904 say this bill is only about making human trafficking a felony rather than a misdemeanor, but in Maryland, forcing, threatening, coercing, or defrauding children and adults into prostitution is already a felony. HB241/SB904 will go even further and make felons of people who may have nothing to do with an adult’s choice to be a sex worker, as well as applying felony charges to individuals who are involved in trading sex for safety or survival.

Those who will be most harmed by HB241/SB904 are those charged based on non-violent and helping acts, such as providing a ride or securing shelter for a consenting adult involved in prostitution. HB241/SB904 would escalate criminalization of vulnerable young adults involved in the sex trade with peers who often work together to further their mutual survival. Even victims of trafficking and intimate partner violence are not excluded from being arrested for and charged with human trafficking. This creates lifelong consequences to people by impeding their ability to secure employment, housing, and higher education.

It is for these reasons we oppose Maryland House Bill 241 and Senate Bill 904. The potential for increased collateral consequences to victims, homeless youth, communities of color, and vulnerable women are too great. Maryland must rethink its human trafficking law for adults—not make it worse.

STATEMENT AND ENDORSEMENT LIST WILL BE SUBMITTED TO MEMBERS OF THE MARYLAND GENERAL ASSEMBLY, to endorse please complete the SM form here:www.surveymonkey.com/s/P6HXV2Z