The Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service has joined the UB School of Law’s Human Trafficking Prevention Project to offer expanded services to human-trafficking survivors and others at risk of exploitation.
According to a May 3 story in The Daily Record – “Pro bono group, UB Law launching expanded human trafficking prevention effort” – the move will allow the clinic to take on more cases and to expand its reach beyond Baltimore.
The expansion is part of a two-year grant from the governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention, the paper reported.
Laurie Culkin, J.D. ’16, has been hired as the coordinator of the clinic, which is directed by Jessica Emerson, J.D. ’13.
“The goal is to train attorneys to handle these cases and train statewide,” said Culkin, who has a background in victims’ rights and family law advocacy for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.
The clinic is working with bar associations and law firms to raise its profile and to encourage attorneys to take cases pro bono.
Under Maryland’s 2011 “vacatur” law, sex-trafficking survivors can have their prostitution convictions vacated. With the expanded program, The Daily Record reported, MVLS staff and pro-bono attorneys will work with survivors on criminal-record expungement, shielding and vacatur, which will enable survivors to access employment, housing, public benefits and student loans.
“Employment hurdles on top of their emotional distress can be debilitating to survivors of human trafficking, especially as they try to better their lives,” said Bonnie Sullivan, executive director of MVLS. “Our partnership with the University of Baltimore School of Law presents an opportunity to help survivors heal from their trauma by reducing the stigma associated with having a criminal record that resulted from a history of trafficking.”
A free training for attorneys will be offered June 9 at the UB School of Law. Information can be found on the MVLS website.