2017 | Rich Williams, National Conference of State Legislatures

Child trafficking crimes—actions that facilitate the commercial sexual exploitation or forced labor of youth— present difficult criminal justice and human services challenges for government officials. State legislators, through the deliberation and enactment of policy, are at the forefront of the current intergovernmental effort to identify and implement effective procedures to combat child traffickers and pursue justice for survivors.

A recent trend in state child trafficking policy focuses on treating trafficked youth as survivors of trauma who should be provided rehabilitative services rather than as perpetrators of crimes they were forced to commit. Policies created for this purpose are a subset of child trafficking measures often referred to as safe harbor laws.

This report identifies six themes in state safe harbor laws and provides policy alternatives within each theme. The six themes are:

  1. Collaboration and coordination of state entities and resources.
  2. Decriminalization and/or diversion for actions of trafficked youth.
  3. Funds for anti-trafficking efforts and survivor services.
  4. Provision of services for youth survivors.
  5. Increased penalties for traffickers of children.
  6. Training to recognize and respond to trafficking crimes and its victims