Criminal Justice

The Justice Department’s Office for Victims of Crime should reinstate funding to provide representation for trafficking victims seeking to expunge their criminal records, the ABA says in a letter released Monday.

Vacating and expunging criminal convictions “are necessary final escapes” for trafficking victims who want to move on with their lives, according to the letter by ABA governmental affairs director Thomas Susman.

“These newly proposed restrictions would create dangerous and troubling gaps in services for victims of human trafficking,” the letter says. “The final shackles of their trafficking victimization would remain tightly bound were vacatur and expungement not provided through critical legal services.”

More than half of the states have passed vacatur laws that permit trafficking victims to petition to have their records cleared if they can show their crimes arose from victimization. Lawyers working with trafficking survivors receive training from a Survivor Reentry Project, launched by the ABA’s Commission on Domestic & Sexual Violence with support from the Office for Victims of Crime, the letter says.

Funding for the project is in keeping with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which says trafficking victims should not be inappropriately punished for unlawful acts committed as a result of being trafficked, the letter says.