In 2013, the Attorney General's Office collaborated with the Legislature to form the first Michigan Human Trafficking Commission. The Commission working with a victim-centered, trauma-informed approach emphasized that the men, women, and children who are trafficked are victims-not criminals. The 2013 Commission had two goals: assess the threat human trafficking poses to Michigan residents and develop policy recommendations to promote its exposure and prevention. The Commision's work resulted in a comprehensive legislative package that was passed in 2014, and took effect in early 2015.
Thereafter, a standing Human Trafficking Commission was created within the Department of Attorney General. Commission members are appointed by the Governor to represent various groups and public officials.
In March 2013, the Attorney General's Office worked tirelessly with legislators, law enforcement personnel, and activists to fulfill the mission of the 2013 Commission. To that end, the group reviewed data collected on trafficking crimes, services offered to victims, state legislation regarding criminal punishment, and training methods to recognize signs of trafficking.
After more than six months of review, the Commission developed wide-ranging recommendations as an action-oriented agenda for policymakers. The report's key recommendations included:
- Strengthening Legal Protections for Human Trafficking Victims - The Commission called for the passage of a Safe Harbor law to ensure minor victims are treated as victims in need of services, not criminals.
- Expanding Real Assistance for Human Trafficking Victims - The Commission recommended expanding housing for trafficking victims who have nowhere to turn after being rescued from their trafficker.
- Toughening Laws to Target Traffickers and "Johns" - The Commission recommended increasing penalties for "johns" who solicit sex from 16 and 17 year-olds from a misdemeanor to a felony.
- Strengthening Forfeiture Laws - The Commission also recommended strengthening state forfeiture laws to reduce trafficker's ability to profit from the exploitation of children, women and men.
- Increasing Public Awareness - The Commission recommended a statewide public awareness campaign and human trafficking poster law to elevate the discussion and awareness that human trafficking happens in the Great Lakes State.
- Tracking the State's Progress - The Commission recommends the implementation of a standard, comprehensive method for capturing human trafficking data from entities that interact with trafficking victims.
As a result of the 2013 Commission's recommendations, and ongoing involvement and advocacy of Commission members, a comprehensive human trafficking legislative package was introduced and passed in 2014. The standing Michigan Human Trafficking Commission was established as a result of the 2013 recommendations.
The mission of the Michigan Human Trafficking Commission as set forth in statute includes:
- Identifying sources for grants that will assist in examining and countering human trafficking in this state, and applying for those grants when appropriate.
- Funding research programs to determine the extent and nature of human trafficking in Michigan.
- Providing information and training regarding human trafficking to:
- Police officers
- Court personnel
- Health care providers
- Social services personnel
- Other individuals the commission considers appropriate
- Collecting and analyzing information regarding human trafficking in Michigan.
- Identifying state and local agencies within Michigan and other states, as well as within the federal government, that are involved with issues relating to human trafficking, and coordinating the dissemination of information regarding human trafficking in Michigan to those agencies.
- Reviewing existing services available to assist human trafficking victims, including crime victim assistance, health care, and legal assistance, and establishing a program to make those victims better aware of the services available to them.
- Establishing a program to improve public awareness of human trafficking.
- Reviewing existing state laws and administrative rules relating to human trafficking and making recommendations to the legislature to improve those laws and rules to address human trafficking violations in Michigan.