A bill to combat human trafficking in Mississippi is on its way to the govern's desk. As MPB's Desare Frazier reports, legislators are also fine tuning another human trafficking bill that raises penalties.
Senate Bill 2305 is aimed at stiffening penalties for those involved in human trafficking in Mississippi. Those who traffic minors for labor or sex would face 20 years to life in prison and a fine of not more than a $500,000. Republican Senator Michael Watson of Hurley has worked on the bill.
"One of the worst stories I heard about was basically was a grandfather who was taking his 6-year granddaughter to the local drug house dropping her off for 24 hours, getting his fix and then coming back and getting her the next day," said Watson.
The bill says a person charged with human trafficking cannot avoid prosecution by saying that minors agreed to commit the crimes. Watson says the measure does protect minors from prosecution.
"Some of them were really unwilling to come forward because they were being prosecuted for prostitution or what have you, so they were coming out with a criminal record by reporting a crime," said Watson.
Some Senators expressed concerns this might be a loop hole for children who exploit other children. Sandy Middleton with Mississippi Center for Violence Prevention disagrees. She helped legislators with the House's human trafficking bill, HB 571.
"We've seen cases where multiple teens were involved in trafficking. But they all also had an adult who was benefiting from the exploitation," said Middleton.
The House bill authorizes the Department of Child Protection Services to work with victims and their families. It also calls for housing a human trafficking coordinator in the Deparptment of Public Safety. That bill is on its way to the governor. Watson says the Senate bill still needs some work before its finalized.