Before being elected this past fall was working a standout at when a nun approached him to talk with him about human trafficking going on in America.
"A nun who lives (on a local street) said her order is very involved in trying to stop human trafficking across the world and she educated me on what kind of a problem it is," said Coppinger. "Once I got sworn in, more and more people seemed to be talking about it. It seemed like a human rights issue we should be involved in."
Coppinger is one of many co-sponsors on a bill sponsored by Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley that would create "comprehensive legislation that would for the first time, establish human trafficking for sexual servitude or labor as a crime in Massachusetts."
The Commonwealth is one of five states in the country without human trafficking laws, which is considered the second largest and single fastest growing illegal industry in the world, according to the Attorney General's office. More than 27 million people are believed to be trafficked around the world bringing in $32 billion annually, according to experts.
Said Coakley, “Let there be no doubt – people of every background are victims of human trafficking across the world, in this country, and right in our own backyard. This bill sends a clear message that human trafficking is unacceptable in Massachusetts and will give law enforcement the tools to address it."
The proposed bill would create two new crimes, an inter-agency task force, and amend penalties for existing laws to address the demand side of human trafficking.
Here are some highlights of the proposed bill, according to a Coppinger press release:
- The crime of trafficking of persons for sexual servitude, which has a penalty of no more than 20 years in state prison;
- Creates the crime of trafficking of persons for forced labor, which has a penalty of no more than 15 years in state prison;
- Imposes higher penalties for those who exploit child victims younger than 18 compared to adult victims for both crimes (life or any term of years);
- Imposes a minimum mandatory sentence of 10 years in prison for any second or subsequent offense of either crime;
- Allows forfeiture of funds and enables funds to be paid to victims in any restitution order from the court;
- Creates an inter-agency task force to study human trafficking that is led by the Attorney General;
- Increases penalties for current “John” crimes to address the demand side of human trafficking.
This legislation was filed in January, and is supported by more than 40 legislators and organizations including Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley, Boston Police Commission Ed Davis and At-Large Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley.