Grace Farms Announces Justice Initiative Results: CT General Assembly Passes Public Act No. 16-71 Implementing Ground Breaking New Legislation & Enhancing CT Trafficking Statutes
Following a series of discussions initiated during the launch of Grace Farms Foundation’s Justice Initiative last fall, a law strengthening existing anti-trafficking laws has been passed by the Connecticut State Legislature. The Public Act No. 16-71 includes significant new measures designed to increase investigations and prosecutions of traffickers.
Grace Farms Foundation, through its Director of Justice Initiatives, Krishna Patel, was involved in drafting amendments to the law, which was submitted to the Connecticut Trafficking in Persons Council for consideration. This announcement comes seven months after the Foundation’s opening of Grace Farms—a new center for nature, arts, justice, community and faith—in New Canaan, Connecticut.
Public Act No. 16-71 will bolster existing state trafficking legislation, expanding the age of the protected person in various statutes from 16 to 18 years old and requires each state’s attorney and municipal chief of police to report the number of investigations and prosecutions involving missing children in the state of Connecticut. Public Act No. 16-71 will seek transparency supporting law enforcement’s efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking cases. Key amendments of the law require hotels, motels and inns to install signage displaying the trafficking hotline phone number, making Connecticut the first state in the country to do so, and to maintain a system to keep records of all guest transactions and receipts for at least six months. The law also initiates the annual reporting of referred trafficking cases, the development of hospitality staff training programs for identifying and reporting human trafficking, and expands trafficking offenses to include the use of computer services to entice a minor.
“In the six months since the Justice Initiative launch, Grace Farms has become a place where multi-disciplinary sectors can come together and create new pathways for the greater good,” Sharon Prince said. “Child exploitation is a global issue, and we have begun to do our part to help prevent this brutal crime, beginning here in Connecticut. Our collaborative efforts led by Krishna Patel, former federal prosecutor, are already beginning to support our belief that child sex trafficking in our state can be eradicated and the Foundation will continue its commitment to convene the public and private groups involved in this critical effort.”
Since its launch, Grace Farms Foundation has hosted monthly training sessions for law enforcement officials and nonprofits on how to effectively use a big data platform to find traffickers and survivors. The revolutionary tool empowers law enforcement in its fight against sex trafficking. Using advanced algorithms, the platform gleans evidence from publicly available classified ads presenting law enforcement with actionable leads. Since November 2015, with the assistance of this new tool, local and federal law enforcement officials have executed 14 arrests and located 2 survivors. “We believe in the extraordinary capacity of communities to solve problems when they are empowered and equipped to do so and when they have the support and commitment from their government,” said Patel. “Now is the time for all of us to commit to tackling this heinous crime that occurs in the shadows, in our state and around the world.”
Beyond legislation and law enforcement, Grace Farms Foundation’s Justice Initiative also offers opportunities for the public to learn to prevent the exploitation of women and children. Over the past six months, 62 women and teenage girls have participated in free domestic violence and sexual assault prevention classes at Grace Farms. In June, the Foundation will co-host a panel discussion with the local New Canaan Domestic Violence Partnership, to educate upcoming college freshmen about sexual assault on campuses and preventative measures.