A burst of activity among state legislatures to target human trafficking has ushered in dozens of laws to step up criminal penalties against traffickers and offer new help to victims.
The laws focus on practices that have remained largely hidden — traffickers’ coercion of victims into becoming prostitutes, forced laborers or domestic slaves. Some states have introduced measures that criminalize human trafficking specifically for the first time. Advocates say the efforts signal that lawmakers are gaining a fuller appreciation of the scope of human trafficking.
So far this year, more than 40 bills have been enacted and roughly 350 introduced. That compares with just eight bills adopted across the country in 2006, according to the Polaris Project, an anti-trafficking group based in Washington.