United States: New Report on States' Anti-Trafficking Laws
Wednesday, August 8, 2012 11:40 AM

On August 7, 2012, Polaris Project released its 2012 Annual Ratings Map on state human trafficking laws. This year’s report finds many improvements across the nation – 17 states improved from their 2011 ratings and 28 states passed new trafficking laws in the past year. In addition to a national overview and map of progress against human trafficking, the project contains individual state reports that detail each state's anti-trafficking laws. 

The report rates all 50 states and the District of Columbia using ten categories of laws necessary for a basic legal framework to address human trafficking. Each state is then ranked in one of four tiers based on its legislative progress in the ten legislative categories. In the 2012 report, 21 states were placed in Tier One, the highest level of achievement. Tier Two contains 17 states and the District of Columbia, while nine states remain in Tier Three. Wyoming, Arkansas, Montana, and South Dakota – dubbed the “Faltering Four” by Polaris Project – are in Tier Four with very little action taken against human trafficking.

Across the nation, Safe Harbor laws remain an area that needs future improvement. Safe Harbor laws stipulate that minors involved in commercial sex acts should be recognized as victims of sex trafficking, not as criminals for acts that they cannot legally consent to. To date, only eight states have Safe Harbor laws that protect children and provide services to victims of sex trafficking.

Congress initially passed the federal anti-trafficking law, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) over ten years ago. Today 47 states and the District of Columbia have sex trafficking criminal statutes and 49 states and the District of Columbia have labor trafficking criminal statutes. In September 2011, Congress allowed the TVPA to expire for the first time, rendering state laws even more important for protections against human trafficking. 

Compiled from:  Majority of States Actively Passing Laws to Combat Human Trafficking, Polaris Project, (7 August 2012).