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Thursday, October 13, 2022

AG HEALEY’S OFFICE RECEIVES $1.5 MILLION IN FEDERAL GRANTS TO EXPAND HUMAN TRAFFICKING WORK

AG HEALEY’S OFFICE RECEIVES $1.5 MILLION IN FEDERAL GRANTS TO EXPAND HUMAN TRAFFICKING WORK  

Funding Will Support AG’s Anti-Trafficking Task Force and Provide Comprehensive Services for Survivors 

 

            BOSTON –Attorney General Maura Healey announced today that her office has been awarded nearly $1.5 million in federal grants to expand the office’s ongoing work to investigate and prosecute human trafficking cases and provide comprehensive, trauma-informed services to victims.   

 The AG’s Office was awarded two grants from the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Office of Justice Programs, one for $750,000 from the Bureau of Justice Assistance to bolster the office’s ongoing human trafficking enforcement work and the second for $749,999 to support human trafficking victims. Both awards are three-year grants that began on Oct. 1, 2022, and will expand the work of the Commonwealth’s Anti-Trafficking Task Force (CAT Task Force). The Task Force was formed in 2019 with $1.7 million in grant funding from DOJ, and is co-led by the AG’s Human Trafficking Division, the Massachusetts State Police Unit assigned to the AG’s Human Trafficking Division, and the AG’s Victim Witness Services Division. 

 “Human trafficking is one of the fastest growing criminal enterprises and my office has been committed to ending this exploitation and protecting the rights of survivors,” AG Healey said. “This grant funding will help expand the work of our multi-agency task force to hold perpetrators accountable and provide the additional support and services that victims need.” 

 The new grant funding will allow the CAT Task Force to expand its multi-disciplinary approach to combatting labor and sex trafficking through its continued partnerships with the AG’s Fair Labor Division, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Homeland Security Investigations New England, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and collaboration on case work, training opportunities, and outreach. The AG’s Human Trafficking and Fair Labor Divisions also collaborate with workers’ advocacy organizations, labor unions, law enforcement, and municipalities to raise awareness and build new cases

 “I am thrilled that the U.S. Department of Justice will continue to fund the Massachusetts Attorney General’s CAT Task Force for another three years,” said U.S. Attorney Rachael S. Rollins. “The fight against human trafficking (which includes both labor and sex trafficking) in our Commonwealth, and supporting these targeted victims, is one of the highest priorities for my office. Coordination among local, state and federal partners is imperative to provide a victim-centered approach to disrupting, preventing and eradicating human trafficking. This funding permits the CAT Task Force’s important work to continue.” 

“No community is immune from human trafficking,” said Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Boston Division. “It is an exploitive, abusive crime that treats human beings as mere commodities to be bought and sold for financial gain. Every day, the FBI’s Child Exploitation – Human Trafficking Task Force is working closely with our law enforcement and community partners to identify traffickers and ensure they face justice for their crimes, while helping their victims escape the cycle of abuse. We take a victim-centered approach to each case, and we urge anyone who is or believes they may be a victim of human trafficking to contact us.” 

 The AG’s Victim Services Division will continue to be the lead service provider for the CAT Task Force. The Division intends to award new funding to its current diverse group of subgrantees that include Boston University School of Law’s Immigrants’ Rights and Human Trafficking Program; The Education, Vision, Advocacy Center (EVA) Project of Casa Myrna Vazquez, Inc.; Garden of Hope; Living in Freedom Together, Inc. (LIFT); My Life My Choice; Sojourner House Inc.’s THEIA Project; and the Support to End Exploitation Now program of the Children’s Advocacy Center of Suffolk County. Once a victim of trafficking is identified through an investigation by the AG’s Human Trafficking Division, the victim is connected with a victim witness advocate from the Victim Witness Services Division of the AG’s Office. The advocate conducts a crisis-needs assessment to ensure the victim is safe and their needs are met. Following the assessment, the advocate will generally make a referral to one of the subgrantee service providers. Subgrantees provide a variety of services to victims including connecting them with access to housing and transportation, mental health services, immigration legal assistance and social service advocacy. 

 “As a survivor-led agency focused on ending commercial sexual exploitation, My Life My Choice, is grateful to build upon our partnership with the Attorney General’s Office,” said Lisa Goldblatt Grace, Co-Founder & Co-Executive Director of My Life My Choice. “This grant will continue to enhance our collaboration, expand our training audience, and support vital services for young people in the Commonwealth who’ve experienced commercial sexual exploitation.”   
 “Living in Freedom Together (LIFT), Inc. is grateful to be a part of the Attorney General's Commonwealth Anti-Trafficking Task Force,” said Nikki Bell, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of LIFT. “As a survivor-led organization, the partnership with the AG's Office and the work to end trafficking is personal, and we look forward to continuing to support the Task Force's work to increase our Commonwealth's capacity to respond to survivors’ needs and increase access to essential resources for this historically marginalized population.” 

 “We are excited to continue this important partnership to respond to trafficking in the Commonwealth,” said Julie Dahlstrom, Director of the BU Law Immigrants’ Rights and Human Trafficking Program. “We are grateful for the leadership of Attorney General Healey and her team to develop best practices to combat trafficking and ensure that survivors receive much-needed protections.”  

             AG Healey has made combatting human trafficking a priority for her office and when she took office in 2015, created a dedicated Human Trafficking Division to focus on policy, prevention and prosecution. The Division includes a team of specialized prosecutors, victim advocates and Massachusetts State Police troopers who handle high impact, multi-jurisdictional human trafficking investigations and prosecutions across the state. Through the Human Trafficking Division, the AG’s Office has charged more than 70 individuals in connection with human trafficking and helped numerous survivors.  

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