HB 827 — Juvenile Law - Sex Trafficking - Immunity, Services, and Investigations (Child Sex Trafficking Screening and Services Act of 2019)

Committee: House Judiciary

Position: Support

The Maryland Catholic Conference (“Conference”) represents the public policy interests of the three Roman Catholic (arch)dioceses serving Maryland: the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Archdiocese of Washington, and the Diocese of Wilmington.

House Bill 827 formally clarifies that a minor reasonably believed to be involved in prostitution as a result of sex trafficking is to be treated as a victim of abuse, and therefore immediately eligible for age-appropriate trauma-informed services. It also requires the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention (GOCCP) to designate six regional navigators to provide services to victims of sex trafficking, and mandates up to three million dollars for grant funding to fulfill this purpose.

The Conference strongly supports efforts to eradicate human trafficking by strengthening laws protecting victims against traffickers, providing services and rehabilitation to victims, and increasing awareness of the issue. Pope Francis has strenuously called on society to make every effort to eradicate sex trafficking, which he has called a “shameful and intolerable crime.” Moreover, he has urged government officials to “combat this scourge with firmness, giving voice to our younger brothers and sisters who have been wounded in their dignity, and constitutes a true crime against humanity.”

Human trafficking – both sex trafficking and labor trafficking – strips the dignity from a person and is considered modern-day slavery. Twenty-five percent of all victims of sex trafficking are under the age of seventeen. This is a crisis that must be addressed. It cannot be solved by one effort alone; it needs to be approached holistically and tackled from different angles. House Bill 827 is a crucial and necessary step towards that goal.

The Conference appreciates your consideration and, for these reasons, respectfully requests a favorable report on House Bill 827.