Governor Tate Reeves signed the bill into law impacting the punishment for those caught trafficking individuals in the state.
Governor Tate Reeves signed HB 971 on Monday which prohibits any person from driving a commercial vehicle if they have been convicted of a crime that falls under the umbrella of the Mississippi Human Trafficking Act or any felony involving sex trafficking under federal law.
“Human trafficking is a vile and disgusting crime. Mississippi’s supply chains have no room for human traffickers and the individuals that perpetuate this abuse deserve to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” said Governor Reeves. “This legislation offers another deterrent to fight against human traffickers and punish those who commit this horrendous act.”
“Human trafficking is a tragic crime of abuse that takes advantage of the most vulnerable members of society,” stated Governor Reeves’ press release on the issue.
Statistics show that over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a significant rice in human trafficking. Traffickers took advantage of the uptick in social media usage to target potential victims.
The U.S. Department of Justice reported that between 2011 and 2019, the number of defendants charged with trafficking crimes increased by 79% and those convicted increased by 80%. Human trafficking is said to be the fastest growing criminal industry in the world.
HB 971 disqualifies individuals convicted of human trafficking from ever driving a commercial motor vehicle again.
This legislation joins other efforts the state has made over the last four years to improve their ability to fight human trafficking.
Prior bills passed prohibit the charge of prostitution for a minor. require additional training for law enforcement officers, CPS workers and others on the matters of human trafficking and create a trust fund within the Attorney General’s office in which monies go to provide services for victims.