Marsico Applauds House Passage of Safe Harbor Legislation
HARRISBURG – Much-needed legislation to protect child victims of human trafficking from criminal prosecution is on its way to the governor’s desk, said Rep. Ron Marsico (R-Lower Paxton), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

“The exploitation of these children is reprehensible, and the idea that they would be treated as criminals rather than victims is unfathomable,” said Marsico, who as committee chairman helped to vet the bill and move it to the full House for consideration. “While we obviously hope to prevent our children from being victimized in the first place, I look forward to getting this law in place to ensure those who do fall victim to human trafficking are helped and supported, rather than incarcerated.”

Under Senate Bill 554, the state Department of Human Services (DHS) would be required to work with county agencies to develop programs that address the needs of exploited children, including housing, education, employment and life skills, case management, health care, substance abuse treatment, clothing and other needs. DHS would also be required to ensure providers of services are trained to understand the special needs of these children. Police officers would also be trained to identify, interview and assist child victims.

The bill also would establish the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund, which would be supported by fines assessed against anyone convicted of human trafficking and related offenses.

Finally, the bill would require a child committing certain offenses as a direct result of being a sexually exploited child or victim of human trafficking be diverted from the juvenile justice system and referred, at least initially, to county child protective services instead.

Human trafficking is the world’s fastest growing criminal enterprise, second only to the drug trade. Between 100,000 and 300,000 children are commercially exploited in the United States each year. Over 273 human trafficking cases have been reported in Pennsylvania since 2016.

Nationally, as many as 2.4 million children run away from home each year, with one out of every three homeless teens being lured toward prostitution within 48 hours of leaving home. Statistically, this means at least 800,000 runaway children will be lured into commercial sexual exploitation each year. The average age at which a child first becomes commercially victimized is 12 years old.

Representative Ronald Marsico
105th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Patricia Hippler

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