Update: SB 235, which would, at last, make human trafficking a felony-level crime in Ohio, has sailed through the Ohio House and Senate. But without a signature from Governor Ted Strickland, the law will not be enacted. Time is running out before the 128th General Assembly comes to an end. Please urge Governor Strickland to sign SB 235 into law.
1,000 minors are trafficked in Ohio each year, and hundreds of immigrants are exploited in sweatshops. One federal investigator has called Toledo the number one teen prostitution location in the United States. The victims are almost exclusively American-born girls. Senate Bill 235, jointly proposed by Senator Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) and Senator Tim Grendell (R-Chesterland), has the potential to change this.
Enacting the bill would make trafficking a second-degree felony, expand the existing law to include forced labor, and make it a first-degree felony to force a minor into prostitution. Currently, Ohio does not have a stand-alone human trafficking law, and is one of only five states where trafficking is not a felony.
Although hundreds of supporters have advocated for the bill— including several federally backed human-trafficking coalitions—it may never see the light of day. Ohio Senate President Bill M. Harris is planning to shorten the next session of the General Assembly, potentially cutting the bill from the agenda. In that case, it would have to be reintroduced in January. The victims of trafficking in America’s heartland can’t wait until January. The bill needs to pass now. It’s time to remind members of the legislature in Ohio that the opposite of good is not evil—it’s apathy.
Raise support for the bill and urge Senator Bill Harris to keep it on the agenda. Send this letter to both your own state senators, and the Ohio Senate President. If we get 1000 signatures—one for every child trafficked in Ohio this year—it will be a huge stride towards ending trafficking in the United States.
Photo by Ronn Aldaman