On Thursday, Gov. Paul LePage announced he’d signed a once-controversial, now unanimously supported law aimed at fighting human trafficking in Maine and helping victims leave “the life” for good.
An hour later — as if it were planned (and to be clear: I’m not saying it was) — police announced busted two alleged human trafficking rings being run out of Central Maine.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Amy Volk, R-Scarborough, provides victims of human trafficking with an affirmative defense in the face of prostitution charges, freeing victims from being labeled with a criminal record. It also allows victims access to aid through the state’s Victim’s Compensation fund, and increases penalties and fines for traffickers.
The bill was subjected to partisan posturing when Volk first introduced it earlier this year. The Democrat-controlled Legislative Council at first opposed its introduction to the agenda this session but, facing stiff opposition and a public relations backlash, eventually supported the bill. It sailed through the Legislature thereafter, receiving unanimous support in both the House and Senate.
Volk worked with the national Polaris Project, a group that fights human trafficking and supports victims, in crafting the Legislation.
“This is a great day for the victims of sex trafficking,” said Volk in a press release. “It was such a happy moment to see Gov. LePage sign this bill into law after months of work where, at times, I doubted whether this day would come. Sex trafficking victims are more protected now and traffickers and their clients face stiffer penalties for the roles they play in taking advantage of other human beings.”
An hour after LePage announced he had signed Volk’s bill into law, State Police announced they’d busted two alleged human trafficking rings — both operating under the guise of escort services, in Sidney and Litchfield.