Southern California Program

Bet Tzedek

Civic and Community
Los Angeles, CA
$250,000
June 2018

Human trafficking is a form of modern day slavery that involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to exploit a person for commercial sex and/or forced labor.  Homeless, runaway, and foster youth are frequent targets, vulnerable due to their young ages, traumatic histories, and financial need.  Traffickers capture and control victims through false promises, threats, and violence.  Enslaved, victims are often forced to commit crimes such as prostitution, drug offenses, and financial crimes.  They are routinely arrested, prosecuted, convicted, and incarcerated without ever being identified as victims.  For those who manage to escape enslavement, a criminal record can block every path to a new life — impeding access to employment, housing, education, and perpetuating their sense of shame and stigma.  California’s Senate Bill 823, enacted in 2017, aims to correct this injustice by permitting survivors to petition the courts to clear their records of non-violent arrests and convictions that were the direct result of being trafficked.  This law can change thousands of survivors’ lives, but only if survivors have attorneys with specific legal training and cultural competency.  Currently, Los Angeles’ legal aid community does not have the capacity to meet this need.  With W. M. Keck Foundation’s support, Bet Tzedek will leverage its “pro bono” service model to solve this problem by launching the Clean Slate Project.  As an expansion of its Employment Rights Project, the two year project will recruit, train, and coordinate a network of volunteer pro bono advocates to provide free legal representation to 200 survivors seeking relief under SB 823.

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