Earlier this month, the US Department of Justice Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) released their human trafficking program grant solicitations with a notable change. The office has dropped the funding restriction on criminal record relief representation for FY2020 grants. This is a significant policy change from the past two years and paves the way for survivors to become fully independent of their trafficking experience.
With shocking regularity, traffickers force their victims to commit crimes as part of the trafficking scheme. These criminal records create barriers to building a new life, even after survivors have physically escaped. With each background check conducted by an employer, landlord, or school; survivors experience the shame, fear, and denial of independence of the trafficking experience. They can be left homeless and unemployed, and without access to education. Criminal record relief laws exist in most states and help survivors to remove or seal those records.
Since 2018, OVC has restricted the use of its grant funding for helping survivors to address these criminal records. For two years, Freedom Network USA, trafficking survivors, and our allies have pressured DOJ leadership and Congress to lift this restriction. This is truly a win for the entire anti-trafficking community. Today, FNUSA sent a letter to OVC officials congratulating them on the move.
“We thank you for your dedication to survivors and congratulate you on this important progress in protecting the rights of trafficking survivors.”
We have also asked that OVC remove the existing restrictions on grants from 2018 and 2019.
“Creating equal access to legal representation for trafficking survivors is a critical part of addressing the exploitation and abuse that survivors have suffered. All survivors should have access to all allowable legal services needed to address the impact of their trafficking experience. Survivors should not be forced to forgo legal remedies due to unnecessary grant restrictions.”
Thank you to the advocates who worked tirelessly on this effort. Your passion and determination to support access to justice for trafficking survivors is the key to improving access to justice. We are dedicated to human trafficking advocacy efforts that directly impacts the lives of survivors.
To learn more about criminal record relief in your state or submit a request for support, visit the Survivor Reentry Project page at https://freedomnetworkusa.org/advocacy/survivor-reentry-project/.