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The Advocates' Work on Trafficking in Persons
The Advocates’ efforts to promote and protect the human rights of human trafficking victims in Minnesota have included research and reports, training, and legislative reform. The Advocates for Human Rights sits on the steering committee of Minnesota's Statewide Human Trafficking Task Force and works closely with allies to ensure that state and federal anti-trafficking legislation meets human rights standards.
Research and Reports:
In 2007, The Advocates was selected by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s Office of Justice Programs to conduct a human sex trafficking needs assessment for the state. After extensive fact finding, as well as analysis of the services available and the barriers faced by trafficked persons when seeking safety and support, the Advocates published the Sex Trafficking Needs Assessment for the State of Minnesota in 2008. The report examines the government response to this issue at the local, state, tribal, and federal levels; identifies facilities and services currently available to trafficking victims in Minnesota; assesses their effectiveness; and makes recommendations for coordinating services to better meet the needs of sex trafficking victims statewide. This report has continued to serve as an important tool for the community and has informed much of our ongoing work.
The Advocates for Human Rights also contributed to UN Women’s Global Virtual Knowledge Centre to End Violence Against Women and Girls, www.endvaw.now, as the primary authors of the modules on Justice and Legislation against Violence Against Women. The legislation module includes information and best practices, including specific information on sex trafficking of women and girls.
Since 2008, The Advocates has reached more than 2,000 individuals through nearly 70 presentations and trainings throughout the state. We provide such trainings and presentations for a variety of groups, including legal professionals, members of government, community groups, university and law students, police, businesses, and for the general public.
In addition to community outreach and trainings, The Advocates has also trained legal professionals on sex trafficking in Minnesota. In April 2011, The Advocates for Human Rights facilitated the first-ever prosecutor trainings on sex trafficking in Minnesota. The two trainings, which took place in St. Paul and Duluth and drew over 70 participants, were part of a two part Sex Trafficking in Minnesota: Prosecutors Training Project that included a manual created in partnership with the Minnesota County Attorney’s Association. The training and manual provided a resource for prosecutors to learn about the dynamics of sex trafficking in Minnesota and how to use the Minnesota law to more effectively prosecute sex trafficking cases. At the training, we directly compared and contrasted the federal law and the Minnesota law so prosecutors could better identify sex trafficking cases under MN law, worked with interactive case studies, and provided information on policy goals of changing the discourse and dialogue around sex trafficking in Minnesota. 
In December 2011, we trained judges at the Minnesota Annual Conference of Judges. At this training, we were able to reach judges from around the State to review the dynamics of sex trafficking and Minnesota law. After this training, we were asked to co-facilitate a training for legal professionals. This training, held in January 2012, was attended by judges, law clerks, lawyers, prosecutors, police, and other legal professionals in the state.
In August 2012, we joined the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office and the hospitality industry to train motel and hotel employees on sex trafficking. The training included information on recognizing victims, and additional information of what they can do to help.
If you are interested in training for legal professionals, please contact staff attorney Beatríz R. Menanteau, Staff Attorney with the Women’s Human Rights Program. For community presentations please fill out a request form here.
Legislative Reform:
2009 Legislative amendments to Minnesota’s Sex Trafficking Law
As a follow-up to the recommendations set forth in the Sex Trafficking Needs Assessment for the State of Minnesota, The Advocates worked with the statewide Minnesota Trafficking Task Force to draft a bill to strengthen Minnesota’s sex trafficking law. The Minnesota Legislature unanimously passed and the governor signed the “Bill for an Act to Combat Trafficking in Minnesota” into law and the amendments went into effect August 1, 2009.
The amendments to Minnesota’s sex trafficking law enable law enforcement and prosecutors to better hold the perpetrators of this grave human rights violation accountable. Specifically, the amendments to the law:
  • Provide law enforcement and prosecutors with the ability to arrest and charge sex traffickers with higher penalties when an offender repeatedly trafficks individuals into prostitution, when bodily harm is inflicted, when an individual is held more than 180 days, or when more than one victim is involved;
  • Increase the fines for those who sell human beings for sex;
  • Criminalize the actions of those individuals who receive profit from sex trafficking;
  • Categorize sex trafficking with other “crimes of violence” to ensure that those who sell other for sex are prohibited from possessing firearms; and
  • Add sex trafficking victims to those victims of “violent crime” who are protected from employer retaliation if they participate in criminal proceedings against their traffickers.
Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission: Making the increased penalties possible
After passing the “Bill for an Act to Combat Trafficking in Minnesota,” The Advocates monitored the review of the relevant criminal statues by the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission, and offered written and oral testimony. The Minnesota Legislature adopted the recommendations of the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission and the Governor signed the changes that went into effect August 2010. As a result of the changes, the sentencing guidelines better reflect the legislature’s intent for ensuring higher penalties for perpetrators of sex trafficking and related crimes under Minn. Stat. § 609.322. These changes both moved the crime of sex trafficking to the Sex Offender Grid as well as increased the potential sentencing ranges. The re-ranking of this crime to severity levels B and C is also significant because all sentences for these offenses will include presumptive commitment to state imprisonment without the need for departure.
Improving Minnesota sex trafficking laws: Safe Harbors
In early 2010, the national group, End Child Prostitution and Trafficking (ECPAT) approached The Advocates for Human Rights to create a campaign to pass legislation to protect sexually exploited children in Minnesota. The Advocates, along with The Family Partnership and an array of others working in the field, convened to discuss legislation to protect sexually exploited youth from criminalization, provide effective services, and ascertain the best approach for this legislative initiative.
The Safe Harbors initiative sought to change Minnesota’s laws to more clearly emphasize the state’s obligation to provide services and assistance to children who are sexually exploited, rather than to prosecute them criminally when they are purchased for sexual services. 
Today Minnesota law excludes all children under 18 from delinquency proceedings on the basis of prostitution charges. Read more about the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Youth Act of 2011, which excluded prostituted children under 16 from the definition of “delinquent child” to ensure they can not be held criminally accountable for engaging in prostitution and created a framework for a victim-centered, trauma-informed, culturally appropriate approach to meeting the needs of each individual child. That framework, known as the No Wrong Door approach, resulted from a year-long, statewide, multi-disciplinary consultative process. In 2013, The Advocates for Human Rights successfully lobbied for the expansion of Safe Harbor to include all children under 18 in its protection from prosecution.