Update from Senator Joey Hensley: Tennessee Continues Efforts to Combat Human Trafficking

0
349
senator joey hensley

For the past decade, the Tennessee General Assembly has worked diligently to combat human trafficking.  This includes enactment of the new laws passed this year to provide greater protections for crime victims and support to help them recover. 

This past week, Shared Hope International released their latest report. Shared Hope International is a premier organization which is dedicated to bringing an end to sex trafficking through a three-pronged approach – prevent, restore and bring justice. Their report said, “Tennessee, which had previously held the #1 spot under the Protected Innocence Challenge Framework, remained in Tier 1, largely due to aggressive efforts in the 2021 session to enact laws that directly addressed the Advanced Legislative Framework.”  

The human trafficking laws which passed this year include:

Legislation adding those convicted of one or more predatory sex trafficking offenses to the category of sexual predators who are ineligible for early parole or release before completion of their full sentence;

Legislation removing the statute of limitations for any commercial sex trafficking offense committed against a child on or after July 1, 2021 to give victims which are often traumatized or suffer fear of retaliation more time to report;

Legislation requiring law enforcement officers to alert the Department of Children’s Services when they take a minor into custody on charges of prostitution so the child can be placed in a safe home and receive any professional assistance they may need to recover;

Legislation establishing certain considerations regarding the use of deadly force by victims of human trafficking, even if the victims are engaged in illegal activity or in a location they are not legally allowed to be, if they are forced into the situation as a result of their status as a human trafficking victim;

Legislation authorizing law enforcement officers or the district attorney to require the disclosure of wire and electronic communications for evidentiary purposes to crack down on human trafficking offenses organized through social media platforms; and

The 2021-2022 budget legislation which provided over $5 million in funding for key groups fighting human trafficking and supporting victims. 

Shared Hope’s report shows we still have room for progress and be assured that we will continue to work on improving our laws in the upcoming 2022 legislative session. For example, our General Assembly has held hearings over the summer and fall months to evaluate the number of migrant children being permanently relocated to Tennessee by the federal government. One of the goals is to ensure we are doing everything we can to protect victims and keep these children from being trafficked in Tennessee. 

The committee was charged with looking at the number of migrant children being flown into Tennessee and then relocated to other states by the federal government, how to increase transparency from the federal government regarding its relocation of unaccompanied migrant children to and through Tennessee, and the impact, financial and beyond, on Tennesseans, as it relates to the federal government’s migrant relocation program. 

We’ve all seen the many news reports this year regarding unaccompanied minors, including those flying into Tennessee in the dead of night. This includes reports of sexual abuse at a non-profit shelter in Southeast Tennessee. The General Assembly’s special committee’s final report is still being constructed but will show an apparent lack of transparency and openness about the process by the federal government. I will keep you updated when the report is filed. There could also be recommendations for legislation next year as our General Assembly will continue to pass new laws to protect those who are at risk of exploitation and trafficking and to provide help for victims as they recover.

You May Contact Senator Hensley at

425 Rep. John Lewis Way N., Suite 742

Nashville TN 37243

615-741-3100

Toll Free 1-800-449-8366 ext. 13100

Fax 615-253-0231

855 Summertown Highway

Hohenwald TN 38462