Human trafficking survivors awarded second chance with bill signings

DOVER, Del. – Delaware lawmakers are giving human trafficking survivors a break. On Thursday, Governor John Carney signed House Bill 102, which allows survivors to wipe their records clean of most crimes committed while in captivity.

“What these bills do specifically is give a framework for the victimization of the individuals that are caught up in trafficking,” said Yolanda Schlabach, the executive director with Zoe Ministries.

Those convicted or charged with crimes, with the exception of violent felonies, can file for a pardon, expungement, or make a motion to vacate judgment.

Advocates say this is a step that will have a positive impact on survivors lives who have these charges and convictions on their record, allowing them to live a more normal life, adding that this will help survivors with finding housing, education and employment.

Those who advocate for survivors say this was a necessary step in helping those who were forced to commit crimes against their will.

“If we saw somebody that was hit by a car, we would want to do everything we could do to help that person, because it happened not by their own will,” said Schlabach.

The knowledge that they could be free from prosecution of crimes committed could lead to more victims coming forward for help.

“And if we can offer them a clean criminal record, if we can offer them our framework of victimization to get them to jump off of, as a platform, their level of success is going to exponentially increase,” said Schlabach.

This wasn’t the only bill to help human trafficking survivors, a second bill signed by Governor Carney on Thursday will prevent minors from being charged with prostitution.

We asked Schlabach if there are any other pieces of legislation they want to see in Dover, and are told it’s too late for this year, but in the future she’d like to see consideration for a law enforcement task force that is focused solely on human trafficking cases.

Schlabach adds that her organization, Zoe Ministries, will be working to help human trafficking survivors file for pardons, expungements or motions to vacate judgment.

Categories: Delaware, Local News