BATON ROUGE — Louisiana's laws against human trafficking are getting tougher, and victims' services are being highlighted, under several bills signed into law Monday by Gov. Bobby Jindal.
Trafficking victims' support groups say the measures are an international model.
The most sweeping legislation is by Rep. Neil Abramson, D-New Orleans. The bill creates harsher punishments for human trafficking and related crimes, increases protections for victims and requires training for law enforcement to recognize trafficking offenders and victims.
Next year's budget contains $250,000 for the mandatory training.
Another new law on the books, by Rep. Julie Stokes, R-Kenner, will allow courts to create specialized divisions to handle human trafficking cases. Supporters say that will help judges to better steer victims to support services, rather than jail for drug crimes or prostitution.
Jindal also signed a requirement that women seeking an abortion receive information about the illegality of coerced abortions and services available to human-trafficking victims and a bill mandating abortion clinics post the National Human
Trafficking Resource center hotline.
"These bills help us to speak up for those victims who cannot speak for themselves and help us to further crack down on this terrible industry," the Republican governor said at an event surrounded by bill supporters.
Clemmie Greenlee, a victim of human trafficking who attended the bill signing, cried when Jindal wrote his signature on the first piece of legislation.
Greenlee said she was abducted and gang-raped at the age of 12, then forced into prostitution in cities around the South. She described her gruesome ordeal at a press conference with the governor and lawmakers at the start of session promoting the bills, and she said Monday she was overwhelmed by their passage, "jumping for joy."
"You just don't understand, this governor making an announcement like this lifted decades of pain and hurt off of me," said Greenlee, who works at Eden House, a New Orleans residential program for women who are victims of sex trafficking or other types of violence.