The Human Trafficking Prevention Project at University of Baltimore School of Law has received a $254,957 grant from the Maryland Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention. This funding, which can be renewed for a second year, represents an extension of a previous grant from the agency, for a total of more than $1 million in funding in a four-year period.
The project, the first of its kind in Maryland, is housed within the law school’s Civil Advocacy Clinic and led by UB Law alumna and Clinical Professor Jessica Emerson. Since 2016, the HTPP has partnered with Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service (MVLS) to offer a statewide pro bono program that provides post-conviction assistance to survivors of human trafficking. This new funding will allow the project to expand its client services to include additional civil legal needs, such as landlord-tenant, consumer and family law issues.
Under faculty and staff supervision, student-attorneys in the HTPP clinic represent clients who are filing petitions for criminal record expungement or government pardons, as well as sex-trafficking survivors who have been convicted of prostitution and seek to have those convictions vacated.
In addition to direct client assistance, students work to raise awareness of the issue of human trafficking and advocate for criminal justice reform through legislative advocacy at the state and federal levels. In addition, by reducing the negative consequences of a criminal record, the project helps clients become more stable and self-sufficient, thereby diminishing the likelihood of future exploitation by traffickers.
“I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to expand our current partnership with MVLS to be able to provide representation to survivors of human trafficking in the variety of other civil legal matters that so often flow from or precipitate their victimization,” says Emerson. “Justice for survivors of trafficking doesn’t only come from the criminal prosecution of a trafficker, and our additional funding reward reflects Maryland’s recognition of this truth.”
In related news, Baltimore attorney Laurie E. Culkin has been named Maryland’s first Anti Human-Trafficking Director. Culkin, a University of Baltimore School of Law alumna, had been HTPP project manager at MVLS. Her office will be housed within the Governor’s Office of Crime Control of Prevention.