On June 20, in a huge legislative victory for survivors of human trafficking, the Ohio House voted to pass Senate Bill 4. This bill will allow survivors more opportunities for a fresh start with a clean criminal record after they escape trafficking.
The Ohio Justice & Policy Center is overjoyed at the passage of Senate Bill 4. Road blocks keeping OJPC’s clients from a redemptive, meaningful life will be eliminated; our clients, who have survived horrific trauma, will finally be able to heal.
Below is OJPC’s initial call to action regarding Senate Bill 4:
It’s time to pass Senate Bill 4
Six years ago, the Ohio legislature took a huge step to allow justice for survivors of human trafficking through the Safe Harbor Act.
The law recognizes that sex trafficking victims are compelled through force, fear, duress, intimidation, or fraud to participate in illegal acts. Consequently, survivors can erase records of convictions through expungement. This opens doors to empowerment, recovery, employment, housing, education, family relationships, and successful reintegration into the community.
However, there’s still work to be done.
While the Safe Harbor Act was a step in the right direction, its expungement provision was too ambiguous. Some courts interpret the Safe Harbor Act in a way that only allows survivors to expunge three prostitution-based crimes. In reality, survivors are often forced to participate in a broad range of illegal activity — from drug offenses to theft — for traffickers’ financial gain. This can result in hundreds of convictions.
There’s a bill in the hands of our state House of Representatives that would allow survivors to expunge most crimes that can be linked back to trafficking.
This bill passed the Senate unanimously in June 2017. After nearly a year of waiting, it passed through the House Criminal Justice Committee.
Now, the bill awaits a vote on the House floor — all the while, survivors of human trafficking continue to hit roadblocks due to a criminal record.
It takes both House and Senate passage for a bill to become a law. The General Assembly will only meet a few more times before the end of the legislative session. If the bill is not passed, it will disappear.
Note: Two parallel bills in the legislature this session address records expungement: SB 4 and HB 56. The wording of these two bills are different and not equally helpful to survivors of human trafficking. OJPC supports SB 4 because it provides true, meaningful routes to freedom for human trafficking survivors.
Survivors of sex trafficking still need your help. Be sure to contact your local representative in the House to advocate for SB 4 and urge them to support the bill. Here’s a tool to help you search for your representative. You can call, email, or send a letter to your representative. If you are writing on behalf of an organization, please include a description of the organization and explain why it cares about human trafficking. OJPC Staff Attorney Sasha Naiman is happy to discuss the bill in greater detail with anyone who is interested.
You can refer to this sample letter of support, and please personalize with your name and an explanation of why this issue is important to you.