March 2, 2021
LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel testified before the House Judiciary Committee this morning in support of a package of human trafficking bills recommended by the Michigan Human Trafficking Commission. The 26 bills are aimed at strengthening tools to hold traffickers accountable, expanding protections for victims of trafficking and fundamentally altering the criminal justice system’s approach to commercial sexual activity, otherwise known as prostitution.
“The very tactics a trafficker uses to exploit a victim’s vulnerability also keep a victim from reporting. Often, victim reports are the best evidence against a trafficker,” Nessel said in her testimony. “The more we can encourage victims to safely come forward and ensure their fair and dignified treatment, the more likely we are to develop the strongest evidence to hold their traffickers accountable. If we adopt these policies in our laws to protect survivors and help meet their intense needs, we can break the cycle of silence demonstrating to traffickers their tactics will no longer prove successful.”
Nessel was joined by Assistant Attorney General Kelly Carter, chair of the Michigan Human Trafficking Commission (Commission). The Attorney General also appreciates Rep. Mary Whiteford’s leadership on this legislative package, which stems from more than 30 human trafficking-related bills recommended by the Commission in December 2019. The Commission recommended bills in the following areas:
Criminal Justice – Strengthening Tools to Hold Traffickers Accountable
Criminal Justice – Expanding Protections for Victims of Trafficking
New Commercial Sexual Activity Statute: Modernizing the Prostitution Chapter
In recognition of the inescapable overlap between sex trafficking and “prostitution,” the Commission recommended over a dozen proposals that fundamentally alter the criminal justice system’s approach to prostitution. Starting from realization that nowhere previously in Michigan state statute was the crime of “prostitution” ever defined, but more importantly, recognizing the stigma and judgment that is so often inflicted with the use of the term “prostitute” or “prostitution,” the Commission embraced the recommendation that we replace the term “prostitution” throughout Michigan law with the defined term: commercial sexual activity. The package contains over a dozen recommendations that seek to strike the term prostitution and all references to it throughout the Michigan code. Instead that term would be replaced with the term commercial sexual activity that is defined in the human trafficking chapter as a sex act provided in exchange for something of value.
In addition to the change of terminology, the package includes recommendations for additional changes to the former prostitution – now commercial sexual activity – chapter including:
Several bills related to expanding mandated training on human trafficking for various licensed professionals including commercial drivers, educators and educational-based counselors, and cosmetologists. The training standards will be set in a proposed amendment to the Human Trafficking Commission Act, which will require the Commission to develop minimum standards for the training.
Bills can be reviewed by searching by bill number on the Legislature’s website. Bills included in the human trafficking package are HB 4091 through HB 4113, plus HB 4214 and HB 4215.
The Michigan Human Trafficking Commission was created by statute and is housed in the Department of Attorney General. The Commission was first convened in 2015. Of the 14 members, five are designated to serve by heads of state agencies and nine are appointed by the Governor to serve a term of two years. The Chair, a member of the Commission, is appointed by the Governor.