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Legislative update from Senator Amanda Ragan

From Senator Amanda Ragan –

Senator Amanda Ragan
Senator Amanda Ragan

Human trafficking is happening here in the heartland.

This week, the Iowa Senate passed SF 450 to battle human trafficking, which is the trade of humans, most commonly for the purpose of  forced labor or commercial sexual exploitation. The legislation is part of a dedicated effort to expose it, punish the perpetrators and help the victims return to a better life.

• Makes human trafficking a forcible felony, which means if a person is convicted of or pleads guilty to human trafficking, they will have to go to prison. It will also be a non-bailable offense with no deferred judgments, deferred sentences or suspended sentences.

• Requires the Crime Victim Assistance Division of the Attorney General’s Office to develop outreach, public awareness and training programs on human trafficking, and allows the division to use money from the Victim Compensation Fund to pay for those efforts.

• Requires certified law enforcement officers to have four hours of in-service training every five years on human trafficking, sexual assault, domestic abuse, stalking and harassment. The training will be developed by Iowa Law Enforcement in conjunction with the Coalition Against Sexual Assault and the Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Iowa also has struggled to find appropriate nursing facility placements for sex offenders and those who are aggressive or violent, as well as older Iowans who require psychiatric services and nursing home care. Unfortunately, there have been cases in which staff and other residents have been harmed, and facilities have been fined for not providing adequate security when caring for these individuals.

Providing long-term care for sex offenders and those who are aggressive or violent is costly. It requires special training, security and insurance coverage.

The Legislature has attempted to research the issue, most recently in 2013 when a study committee was approved by the Legislature but vetoed by Governor Branstad. At the Governor’s direction, the departments of Corrections, Human Services and Inspections & Appeals created an informal workgroup that met over the last couple of years but produced no policy or funding recommendations.

Last week, the Senate unanimously approved SF 386, which requests the Legislative Council establish a study committee to look at the feasibility of establishing facilities to provide long-term care and treatment for those who are sexually aggressive, combative or in need of psychiatric services designed specifically for older Iowans.

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