Recently, Tennessee received the highest grade in the entire nation from Shared Hope International for laws we have passed to end human trafficking in this state. In fact, the anti-human trafficking organization has recognized Tennessee with the top distinction in the country in each of the last three years.
These high marks are a testament to the tremendous efforts of our General Assembly. Since 2013, we have passed 38 different initiatives that have increased penalties against human traffickers, while also supporting victims of these heinous crimes.
Recently, we passed an initiative that treats out-of-state offenders the same as in-state offenders so they could be placed on Tennessee’s offender registry. In 2015, we created the Tennessee Human Trafficking Resources Center Hotline to provide critical information about services for those who have been victimized, and we provided a new tool for our law enforcement communities by adding trafficking to the list of offenses in which a District Attorney may apply for a law enforcement wiretap.
The following year, we increased penalties for traffickers who promote others for prostitution, and last year, the Safe at Home program was established to protect victims by ensuring their locations were kept confidential from abusers. We also increased penalties against individuals who promote citizens with intellectual disabilities for prostitution.
During the 2019 legislative session, we removed the statute of limitations for trafficking survivors and empowered them to come forward to pursue justice. We also created a victims fund — in partnership with the state treasury — to provide comprehensive treatment and support services, and we paved the way for a person to have their records expunged if they committed non-violent offenses as a human trafficking victim. Finally, we implemented training programs to help educators learn more about detection, intervention, and prevention of trafficking in children.
I am proud of our ranking and the work we have achieved on this important issue. Together, we have made our communities safer by holding the worst of the worst accountable, and we have created support services that will allow victims of these crimes to successfully re-enter society. We will continue to focus on this important issue so that Tennessee remains a national leader and continues to be recognized for our stringent laws related to ending the cycle of human trafficking in Tennessee once and for all.
William Lamberth is the House Majority Leader for the 111th Tennessee General Assembly. He is also a member of the House Finance, House Government Operations, and House Calendar & Rules Committees, as well as the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee. Lamberth lives in Portland and represents Tennessee House District 44, which includes part of Sumner County.