End Demand Illinois: Legislature passes bill to reform human trafficking code

CHICAGO—Pimps and sex traffickers in Illinois be warned: Our state laws against human trafficking are getting stronger. Over the weekend, the Illinois General Assembly passed House Bill 5278, which reforms the state’s existing human trafficking laws. New language in the bill includes “schemes or plans” and other tactics traffickers use to ensnare and control their victims (Read a fact sheet here). The bill also clarifies how fines can be collected from prostitution-related offenses and funneled into services for survivors of the sex trade. The General Assembly showed overwhelming support for this bill, which passed in the House 114-0, and in the Senate 56-0-0.

The End Demand Illinois campaign thanks State Rep. Kelly Cassidy and State Sen. Jacqueline  Collins for their leadership in sponsoring this legislation. End Demand Illinois partnered with the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office to advocate for this legislation, and we look forward to Governor Pat Quinn signing the bill into law.

Leeanna Majors, a survivor of sex trafficking in Chicago, now advocates with Chicago Coalition for the Homeless and testified on behalf of the bill. “The bill is important so that women can be empowered to make a change in their lives, and the traffickers can be held accountable,” Majors said.

“This bill strengthens Illinois law in a way that will enable prosecutors to bring more human traffickers to justice,” said Lynne Johnson, director of policy and advocacy for the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE).

“We would like to thank the General Assembly for supporting this legislation. For survivors of the sex trade, this is further evidence that our leaders care about them and want to hold perpetrators accountable,” said Daria Mueller, associate director of state affairs for Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. An End Demand Illinois campaign partner, CCH led the lobbying efforts in Springfield for this bill.

These reforms are needed because many traffickers in Illinois are not being held accountable for their crimes. The state’s trafficking statute has only been used in two of Illinois’ 102 counties involving an estimated 29 defendants, and most of those cases involve child victims, which means proof of overt force was not required.

How the bill will change Illinois’ Trafficking code:

  • Clarifies the ways that a trafficker could obtain or maintain a trafficking victim to include “any scheme, plan, or pattern intended to cause the person to believe that, if the person did not perform such labor or services, that person or another person would suffer serious harm or physical restraint.” Why it matters: Once the bill is signed into law, Illinois’ trafficking code will cover tactics commonly used by traffickers, who frequently use schemes that manipulate and intimidate vulnerable people. Traffickers often don’t need to resort to overt violence that the former statutory language could have been read to require.
  • Provides a definition of “serious harm” related to the trafficking victim that duplicates existing federal trafficking code language and includes “any harm, whether physical or nonphysical, including psychological, financial, or reputational.” Why it matters: In addition to physical harm, traffickers employ other types of abuse and control. The new language is more inclusive of these tactics.
  • Enables law enforcement enforcing prostitution-related offenses to collect impoundment fees passed under the 2010 Safe Children Act, even if the charges were filed under a local ordinance. Why it matters: Local law enforcement often charge under local ordinances, and now these fines can become a funding source for services for survivors of the sex trade.

CAASE is the lead agency for End Demand Illinois, the first campaign in the country that strives to change state laws to hold traffickers and perpetrators accountable and to propose a network of supportive services for people impacted by the sex trade. To learn more about the campaign, visit www.enddemandillinois.org

The Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation is committed to building a global community free from sexual exploitation. It is founded on the belief that all forms of sexual exploitation – including sexual assault and the commercial sex trade – are detrimental to a healthy society and undermine the dignity of all people. To learn more, visit www.caase.org or call (773) 244-2230 ext. 3.

Chicago Coalition for the Homeless is the only non-profit in Illinois dedicated to advocating for public policies that curb and can ultimately end homelessness. CCH leads strategic campaigns, community outreach, and public policy initiatives that target the lack of affordable housing in metropolitan Chicago and across Illinois. To learn more visit www.chicagohomeless.org/.