Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Stiffer penalties for modern-day slavery

Prompted by sordid tales of intimidation and servitude, a Senate panel voted to increase penalties for those who profit from the illegal trafficking of humans.

South Florida in particular has become a focal point in a growing investigation into the long-silent world of modern-day slavery, whose victims toil in fields, kitchens and streets as farm laborers, domestic servants, prostitutes and sex slaves.

“We now have slavery in Florida,” state Sen. Glen Margolis, D-Bay Harbor Island, told members of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee shortly before the panel unanimously approved her bill. Read the bill here.

The measure would increase penalties for human trafficking by adding racketeering to the list of offenses. Under state racketeering laws, those convicted face a first-degree felony punishable by prison terms of up to 30 years, fines and forfeiture of property.

“In as far as it could bolster the state law, that is a positive thing,” said Coalition of Immokalee Workers member Lucas Benitez, whose organization received the 2003 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award for its work uncovering slavery in Florida. “But in practice, the impact of the law is only as strong as the aggressive enforcement that the state puts behind it.”

Read the Naples Daily News story here.

And see previous posts here, here, here and here.


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