Bill aims to help minors who are sex trafficking victims

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - The Republican leader of the Mississippi House is pushing a bill that he says could protect children who are victims of sex trafficking.

House Bill 571 would prevent charges from being filed against trafficking victims who are younger than 18. The minor would be taken into protective custody and counseling would be provided. Foster parents would be trained to help trafficking victims.

House Speaker Philip Gunn, a Republican from Clinton, tells the Clarion Ledger that human trafficking is happening in Mississippi, including "in the shadow of our Capitol."

One supporter of the bill is Sandy Middleton, executive director of the Center for Violence Prevention in Pearl. The center has a program that fights human trafficking. Middleton says it received 31 crisis calls and 85 referrals in 2018.