ABA report offers support for trafficking survivors, recommends best practices for prosecutors

The American Bar Association Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence has released a new report, “Workable Solutions for Criminal Record Relief: Recommendations for Prosecutors Serving Victims of Human Trafficking.” The report is the final product of the Commission’s Survivor Reentry Project, a national training and technical assistance initiative on criminal record relief for survivors of human trafficking.
The views expressed in the report are those of the Commission only. They have not been approved by the ABA House of Delegates or Board of Governors and should not be construed as representing the position of the American Bar Association.

“Workable Solutions,” authored by Kate Mogulescu of Brooklyn Law School and Jessica Kitson of Volunteer Lawyers for Justice in New Jersey, identifies guiding principles and best practices for prosecutors handling post-conviction cases involving trafficking survivors.

The report also addresses the challenges that prosecutors can face in such cases and makes recommendations for policy and practice across the country. And it includes insights from prosecutors with experience working with victims of human trafficking in the criminal legal system.

“The power of these recommendations is that they were designed by, and for, prosecutors,” said Andrew King-Ries, chair of the Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence.  “They recognize the critical role of prosecutors — through criminal record relief — to reducing vulnerability and isolation of trafficking survivors and to reducing human trafficking itself.  Ultimately, this is about prosecutors treating trafficking survivors as victims and doing their ethical duty to provide justice for victims of trafficking offenses.”

According to the report, New York in 2010 became the first state to allow trafficking survivors to clear certain criminal charges from their records. Such criminal record relief laws allow survivors to vacate, expunge, or seal arrests and convictions from their records if the conduct was the result of victimization. In the years since New York passed its law, almost every state has enacted some form of criminal record relief for trafficking survivors.

For the last three years, under a grant from the Office for Victims of Crime, the Survivor Reentry Project  has raised awareness of criminal record remedies for survivors of human trafficking and helped build sustainable post-conviction representation practices across the country. Moving forward, the project will become part of Freedom Network USA, and will continue to serve as a critical national clearinghouse on criminal record remedies for trafficking survivors. The project is a resource for survivors, public defenders, legal services lawyers, pro bono attorneys, victims' advocates, law students, judges, and prosecutors.

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