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(WASHINGTON, DC) - An Amendment to provide justice to victims of human trafficking authored by Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) passed the Senate today as part of S.178, the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015.

The amendment provides an incentive for states to enact laws that allow human trafficking survivors to clear their criminal records of prostitution and other low-level, non-violent crimes that they can reasonably demonstrate were the result of being trafficked. It is based on the Human Trafficking Survivors Relief and Empowerment Act, S.642, introduced by Senator Shaheen in March.

“Under current laws in many states, the victims of trafficking are trapped not only by their traffickers, but by a criminal justice system that too often fails to acknowledge that they are victims in need of rescue, not criminals deserving incarceration and the stigma of an arrest record,” said Shaheen. “This amendment will provide victims of trafficking the power to reclaim their lives.”

Many victims of human trafficking are prosecuted for criminal activity they were forced to take part in. These criminal convictions can make it more difficult for survivors to rebuild their lives by limiting opportunities to safe housing, employment, loans, and education. While some states, like New Hampshire, have vacatur laws in place permitting survivors to clear their criminal records, many do not. Senator Shaheen’s amendment provides states with compliant vacatur laws additional credit towards Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) federal grant applications.