2013 Wisconsin Act 362 Signed in Law April 23

WI Governor Scott Walker signed an omnibus human trafficking bill into law on April 23, 2014.  It previously was known as 2013 AB620/SB492.  It is now recognized as 2013 Wisconsin Act 362.

Key changes it brings to addressing human trafficking under WI state law include:

  • Removes the need to prove human trafficking victims did not consent to actions a trafficker forced them to take
  • Expands the forms of force, fraud or coercion that constitute human trafficking acts
  • Provides a path by which human trafficking victims/survivors of all ages can seek to vacate or expunge prostitution convictions they received for actions taken while under the control of a trafficker
  • Expands the terms under which any person receiving from a person engaged in prostitution or debt bondage is guilty of a Class F felony 

It is a good law that enables effective prosecution of human trafficking criminals and, when a human trafficking victim was improperly convicted of prostitution, it provides the legal mechanism to undo this wrong. 

SlaveFree Madison is now focused on supporting new legislation that addresses the need for appropriate services for victims and survivors or human trafficking.

SFM Representative JoAnn Gruber-Hagen pictured, third from left.

WI Legislative Update

On Thursday, February 13, the omnibus human trafficking AB620 was passed by the Assembly and immediately forwarded it to the Senate for action.  An amendment to AB620 was proposed but was tabled by the Assembly.  So the AB620 forwarded to the Senate matches Senate Bill 492 exactly so no modifications will be required by the Senate on their bill.

The committee that considered the bill recommended it for passage 5-0.  There is not date posted yet for Senate action on SB492.
While these two "companion" bills do much to enhance prosecution of human trafficking perpetrators and would establish a path by which a person convicted of prostitution while under the control of a trafficker could seek to have the prostitution convictions either vacated or expunged from his/her record - which is a good thing.  We had urged that convictions of other crimes forced to be committed by a trafficker also be eligible to be vacated or expunged but there are legal complications in achieving that so it was not proposed.
The bills also do nothing for provision of services to victims - no framework for services nor any funding - which is a large deficit for victims in WI.  In fairness, this bill was proposed by the Dept of Justice to Assembly members so it is a "law and order" bill.  We will work to pressure the Dept of Health and Human Services to get legislation and funding proposals from that agency to the legislature.  
You can read more about AB620 at:  https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/2013/proposals/ab620
You can read more about SB492 at:  https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/2013/proposals/sb492

A future bill that would provide for human trafficking victim services will come with a significant fiscal note which will make it more challenging to get introduced and passed.  But these two bills are steps forward.


Indonesia's Palm Oil Industry Rife With Human-Rights Abuses

If you've bought any consumer goods lately ("from doughnuts to soap, lipstick to biodiesel"), you have bought palm oil.

Don't miss this in-depth, undercover report on labor trafficking and exploitation in Indonesia's palm oil industry by Ben Skinner, friend of SlaveFree Madison and former Madisonian. 

"A nine-month investigation of the industry, including interviews with workers at or near 12 plantations on Borneo and Sumatra...revealed widespread abuses of basic human rights. Among the estimated 3.7 million workers in the industry are thousands of child laborers and workers who face dangerous and abusive conditions. Debt bondage is common, and traffickers who prey on victims face few, if any, sanctions from business or government officials."

Ben visited one of our meetings recently and shared some great ideas he had for SlaveFree Madison.  Here he is (third from back left) with some of our members: