When the time came last Tuesday for state legislators to cast their vote on the state’s anti-human trafficking bill, all of them voted to pass it — except one.
Rep. Benjamin Swan, a democrat from Springfield, voted against the bill.
“There’s mandatory minimum sentencing included,” Swan said when asked about his reasons for voting against the bill.
The bill, signed into law by Gov. Deval Patrick yesterday, establishes the crimes of trafficking persons for sexual servitude and for forced services. Traffickers of children could face life in prison. Those guilty of trafficking people for commercial sex would face not less than five years in prison.
Massachusetts is one of the last states to enact human trafficking legislation.
Swan said if the mandatory minimum sentencing wasn’t included in the bill, he would have voted for it.
“It would cause more damage than good,” Swan said. “Mandatory minimum sentences haven’t worked in [the U.S.], and in the last 40 years have only added to prison population.”
Law enforcement officials, victim advocates and former prostitutes have long pushed for the law, saying it would go after the pimps and help protect women and victims.
For My Life My Choice Project Director Lisa Goldblatt Grace, it doesn’t matter that the bill did not have unanimous support. “To see its passage really feels like Massachusetts is ready to take a stand and to say ‘Not on our watch. Not in our communities,’” she said.