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Legislature: Greenlee speaks out against human trafficking

Last Modified: Wednesday, March 12, 2014 11:35 AM

By Jim Beam / American Press

BATON ROUGE — Clemmie Greenlee put a face on the human trafficking issue Tuesday when she talked about her many years as one of its victims. Her story gave impetus to a declaration of war against what Gov. Bobby Jindal calls a “horrible, horrible, horrific crime.”

Legislators are working with the governor to toughen the penalties for human trafficking and help judicial authorities recognize its victims. 

Reps. Neil Abramson, D-New Orleans, and Julie Stokes, R-Jefferson Parish, are sponsoring the two major bills on the subject. 

Abramson’s legislation deals with penalties and the seizure of personal property used by those who are involved in exploitation. Stokes’ measure authorizes the designation of human trafficking courts and sets up training for their presiding judges.

Jindal said human trafficking has been a major problem in Louisiana and he wants to give a voice to women and children who don’t have one. The most vulnerable are targeted by controlling criminals who make them think they are developing a loving relationship.

“They are buying and selling victims for profit,” he said.

The governor said he wants to eradicate the state of the people who are guilty of these “heinous crimes.”

Trafficking is an underground business, and the second-largest criminal industry today, Jindal said. He said Baton Rouge is one of the top 10 cities for human trafficking.

Greenlee said her heart was pounding and there were tears in her eyes, not because she was nervous but because she was so happy about the efforts being made to end human trafficking.

Her trafficking years began, she said, when she was 12 and was befriended by those who messed up her life. She said the trafficking took her to conventions and the Super Bowl and other sporting events “drugged up and terrified.” 

Greenlee said she landed in jail a hundred times, but eventually “aged out” of that world and became angry.

The shame is over, she said, and she wants to speak up and speak out for others who are tied up in basements going through similar ordeals.

Col. Mike Edmonson, superintendent of state police, said human trafficking became an important issue after Jindal took office. It was only a misdemeanor prior to that time, he said. “It wasn’t a priority, but it becomes one today,” Edmonson said.

State police have opened 476 solicitation cases since 2008, 310 child pornography cases and 390 exploitation cases, he said. Most victims say the same thing, he said: Someone paid attention to them and made them feel more valuable. 

House Speaker Chuck Kleckley, R-Lake Charles, like others, complimented Lee for her courage in speaking out. She works with Eden House of New Orleans, which is described as “a safe haven for women who have survived lives of human trafficking, prostitution, violence and addiction.”

“Clemmie will change lives because of her courage. What she said today will make a difference,” Kleckley said.

Jindal said human trafficking takes place in local communities and that residents need to be aware of its existence. 

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