As the 2018 South Dakota Legislative session begins, human trafficking will be one of the topics to be addressed.

State Representative Tom Holmes of Sioux Falls plans to sponsor legislation that would expunge the criminal records of minors who have been caught up in human trafficking.

“What we’ve found is that it’s very difficult for those individuals who have been forced into trafficking and they often times get forced into committing crimes as well. Once they do manage to escape their traffickers, it’s hard for them to get a decent job. If they can’t get a decent job, they obviously have difficulty getting an apartment.”

One particular example of a person who would benefit from such a reprieve is a woman who is now getting her life back on track. Becky Rasmussen of Call to Freedom says this woman’s story is one of many.

“She’s now a volunteer fire fighter. In order for her to become an EMT she has to have her record expunged in order for her to move into what she believes is a new start on her life. She (recently) saved a gentleman’s life. Two people looked at her and said, ‘This is your call.’”

Call to Freedom is an advocacy group whose purpose is to provide services to victims of human trafficking. The expunging legislation will be submitted by Sioux Falls Senator Jack Kolbeck. Meanwhile Holmes is behind a bill that would impose stronger penalties for the johns who create the demand for those who are trafficked.

January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month.

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