HB 1559, to address gaps in services for victims, has been on the books for one full year.
Speaker of the House Philip Gunn and Attorney General Lynn Fitch joined Director for the Center for Violence Prevention, Sandy Middleton, and first responders in celebrating one year of House bill 1559 being in effect.
HB 1559 was designed to directly address the service gap for minors who are victims of human trafficking. At this time, no specific facility is dedicated to helping minors who are trafficking victims.
“It was an honor to work with our national and local partners to stand up this coordinated response to fight human trafficking in our state. We continue to have three goals with this: education on the issue, how to prevent it — how do our laws and policies measure up — and what do we do to rescue people out of this situation and provide a process of restoration for the victims. These certified investigators that we are recognizing today are heroes in this effort, and we celebrate them.” stated Speaker Gunn.
In attendance were a portion of the 102 law enforcement investigators who are now certified to investigate human trafficking cases in Mississippi. They represent 13 Sheriff Departments, 27 Police Departments, 6 State Agencies, 3 College/School Police and the National Guard. President Nick Brown and Vice-President Phillip Hendricks of the Mississippi Human Trafficking Operational Task Force Board will recognize the newly certified investigators during the program.
Also in attendance were individual who provide direct services to victims when they are picked up, including therapeutic services, medical care and others.
“The Center for Violence Prevention is excited to celebrate accomplishments HB 1559 set in motion to recover victims and arrest and prosecute traffickers in Mississippi. Over the past year, the task forces across the state executed 16 operations which recovered more than 50 suspected victims. HB 1559 fostered this coordinated response among law enforcement, victim service providers and Child Protective Services. During Fiscal Year 2020-2021, our agency responded to 165 victims with 61 of those being children. This was truly landmark legislation that has had a massive impact on human trafficking investigations.” said Middleton.
In September of 2017, The Center opened the state’s first and only human trafficking shelter, named the Tower. The Center is also a member of four human trafficking task forces across the state, providing advocates to aid law enforcement with emergency services to victims. Those victims will have access to the Tower’s long-term program, along with all services offered by The Center.
The state does not currently have a shelter to house victims under the age of 18.