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Alabama Lawmakers Make History with State Law on Human Trafficking Sending a Message to Criminals: “Not in Our State”

U.S. Attorney’s Office April 23, 2010
  • Northern District of Alabama (205) 244-2001

BIRMINGHAM—Until yesterday, Alabama was one of only six states in the nation without a state law criminalizing human trafficking behavior, which has become more prevalent and recognizable across the state. However, lawmakers in Montgomery, Alabama stated their intentions loud and clear by passing Alabama’s first state legislation and sending it to the governor for his signature making it law.

Representative Jack Williams (R), Alabama House District 47, sponsored the bill along with co-sponsor Representative Merika Coleman (D), Alabama House District 57, as subjected under the crimes and offenses: “human trafficking, coercion, or deception causing a person to work or to perform services having financial value or to perform certain sexual activities, prohibited, criminal penalties,” namely, the Representatives Jack Williams and Merika Coleman Act (2010-20826).”

The comparison bill on the Senate side, which was introduced by Senator Wendell Mitchell (D), Alabama Senate District 30, co-sponsored and supported by a host of Senators, and more specifically Senator Steve French (R), Alabama Senate District 15, worked closely with members of the Anti-Human Trafficking Coalition Freedom to Thrive and the Alabama District Attorneys Association to develop legislation penalizing criminal behavior, while addressing the needs of victims and providing for significant collaboration among victim service providers and law enforcement at every level.

Freedom to Thrive Director, Sara Jane Camacho, and Education Chair, Sunny Slaughter, were together when they received word from Representative Coleman that the bill was on its way to the governor for signature. Both were overcome with emotion and could finally breathe a sigh of relief. Sara Jane stated, “We have so many people to thank for their support: first, our parent agency, the South Eastern Network of Youth and Family Services based in Florida, and all of the members of the Freedom to Thrive Coalition, which include notable organizations such as the Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the Alabama Coalition Against Rape, the Jefferson County Coordinated Community Response and The Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham.”

Sunny Slaughter stated, “I am proud of our lawmakers in Montgomery for recognizing that we needed a ‘NOT IN OUR STATE’ sign to traffickers underneath the signs saying ‘Welcome to Alabama’ and ‘Thank you for visiting.’ We have been building collaborative partnerships and raising awareness through community venues for some time now. As we begin scheduling trainings for law enforcement agencies, victim service providers, corporations, faith-based and community organizations, we now have a law that supports the foundational need for people to open their hearts, minds, and doors to understanding the impact of human trafficking.”

United States Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, Joyce Vance, and Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge, Patrick James Maley, met with community leaders several months ago and clearly indicated that they will continue to partner with community agencies to educate, raise awareness, investigate complaints, and criminally prosecute human trafficking cases in Alabama. Both agencies have been partnering with members of the community for several years and established the first collaborative workgroup, consisting of various law enforcement agencies and victim service providers that conducted one of the largest human trafficking conferences in Alabama in 2008 at Samford University.

For additional information regarding Alabama’s Anti-Human Trafficking Coalition or to schedule training, you may visit the website at www.freedomtothrive.org or contact 205-276-8978.

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