A Case For Human Trafficking Laws In Ohio

A piece in The Cleveland Scene by Margo Pierce makes a case for human trafficking laws in her state of Ohio:

If someone holds a gun to your head and forces you to rob a bank, you’re not held responsible for the crime. You had no choice if you wanted to stay alive. And if that standard makes sense, it seems reasonable that someone forced into prostitution because of a threat to her life or the lives of her family members shouldn’t be charged with that crime either.

The federal government and 39 states have used such a standard to create laws against human trafficking–the transportation, harboring, selling or employment of a person through the means of force, fraud or coercion for the purposes of forced servitude. Ohio is considering similar legislation, but the effort is opposed by an unlikely group: the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association (OPPA).

“We have all the laws we need,” says OPPA Executive Director John Murphy. “We already have existing laws on the books dealing with many of the provisions including kidnapping, abduction, compelling prostitution and others.”

Murphy believes including words like “human trafficking,” “debt bondage” and “slavery” in the Ohio Revised Code doesn’t accomplish anything from a legal standpoint.

“I do not think there is any value in including these terms in the law as far as the efficacy of the law,” he says. “It might make a few people feel better, but it’s not going to make a lot of difference. They don’t see the word ‘slavery’ in the code, they don’t see ‘human trafficking’ in the code and they assume our laws are not adequate. They may not use the magic words that they want to see, but that’s beside the point.”

“They” includes a host of people who are proposing and supporting human trafficking legislation at the state level. There currently are three bills at various stages of consideration: House Bill 15, Senate Bill 23 and Senate Bill 205. The one that’s most comprehensive and effective, according to Jessica Donohue-Dioh, is SB 205, sponsored by State Sen. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo).

Donohue-Dioh is coordinator for End Slavery Cincinnati, one of hundreds of coalitions set up by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to implement federal human trafficking legislation at the city and state level. Donohue-Dioh, who works with human trafficking victims and FBI investigators in Cincinnati and Texas, challenges the OPPA assertion that the law isn’t needed.

“Look at the cases that have involved [human trafficking] in Toledo,” she says. “Pimps were prosecuted in Pennsylvania and Florida because there was no state statute. Those pimps could have been stopped earlier on and they could have been prosecuted in the state of Ohio. We shouldn’t have to depend on other states and the federal government to pick up our slack for crimes in Ohio.” Read the whole thing…

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