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    03.20.19 Professor Kate Mogulescu Co-Authors New Report Grading States on Criminal Record Relief for Survivors of Human Trafficking
    Assistant Professor of Clinical Law Kate Mogulescu

    Professor Kate Mogulescu, a national expert on human trafficking issues, has co-authored a new report, State Report Cards: Grading Criminal Record Relief Laws for Survivors of Human Trafficking, that rates all 50 states and Washington, D.C. on the effectiveness of their criminal record relief laws for survivors of human trafficking. The report, released jointly with the American Bar Association’s Survivor Reentry Project, University of Baltimore School of Law, and Polaris, delves into the burdensome impact of a criminal legal system that too often penalizes survivors of sex and labor trafficking for crimes they were compelled to commit. As the laws stand now, nearly all of the states receive failing grades.

    Across the United States, charges and convictions for crimes—ranging from prostitution and possession of weapons and drugs to identity theft and financial crimes—continue to have a profound impact on survivors’ attempts to obtain future employment and affordable and safe housing. In a National Survivor Network survey, 73 percent of respondents reported losing or not receiving employment based on their criminal records, and 58 percent of respondents reported barriers to accessing safe and affordable housing. Criminal history can have a negative impact on the ability of parents to retain custody of their children or bar them from accessing critical government benefits like food stamps. In addition, individuals with felony convictions lose their voting rights in 22 states.

    “The fact that the majority of states receive a failing grade should be a call to action for legislatures across the country,” Mogulescu said. “Criminalized trafficking survivors need the ability to shed the heavy burden of their criminal records. Many have carried this weight for years, if not decades. Access to criminal record relief should not depend on where survivors had the misfortune of facing arrest and prosecution. Remedies must be accessible and attainable and reflect a genuine commitment from lawmakers, prosecutors, court systems and advocates.”

    Mogulescu pointed out that while some states, like New York, have made strides in this area, there is much more to do. In 2010, New York, which received 63 of 100 possible points in the report, became the first state to allow trafficking survivors to clear certain charges from their criminal records. In the years since, almost every state has enacted some form of criminal record relief for trafficking survivors. However, these laws vary greatly. Many are too limited to offer meaningful relief, such as allowing only minors to have records cleared. Others include conditions that make relief inaccessible by limiting it solely to prostitution charges.  

    Mogulescu joined the Law School as a Clinical Law professor in 2017 after 14 years with The Legal Aid Society, where she served as a supervising attorney in the Criminal Defense Practice. Her work and scholarship focus mainly on gender issues in the criminal legal system. Last year, Mogulescu launched the Criminal Defense & Advocacy Clinic (CDAC), working with students at the Law School to provide critical representation for people arrested because of their involvement in the commercial sex industry. She also continues to run the Survivor Reentry Project, a national training and technical assistance initiative on post-conviction relief for trafficking survivors.

    Read the full report here

    Read more coverage of the report in Reuters, The Baltimore Sun and WNYC