Legislature passes human trafficking bill

Earlier this week, the Mississippi Legislature passed a bill that will “step up and help” those affected by human trafficking.

House Bill 1559, which was authored by Speaker Philip Gunn, will provide services for victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation.

“The folks that are trapped in that sort of lifestyle have issues that are not easily or quickly handled, and they need specialized services,” Senator Sally Doty, who was a conferee on the bill, said.

According to Doty, HB 1559 was a “necessary” sequel to House Bill 571 which was signed into law during the 2019 Mississippi Legislative Session. HB 571 made it illegal to charge a person under the age of 18 with prostitution.

“Last year, we did a pretty comprehensive bill with the penalties for human trafficking and really address the criminal side of human trafficking,” Doty continued. “This year, with [HB 1559] brought forward by the Speaker early on in the session, we had a bill to address the victims services side.”

The programs incorporated by the bill, plus their funding, will be administered by the attorney general’s office.

“The attorney general’s office will coordinate our statewide response to human trafficking,” Doty said. “We are going to have a new fund that is funded by fines on some different criminal offenses. That money will be administered by the attorney general’s office and will go towards funding services [and] shelters for these victims of human trafficking.”

Attorney General Lynn Fitch recently went to Twitter to express her excitement for the passage of the human trafficking bill.

Now, the bill is awaiting Governor Tate Reeves signature before it can officially become law.