Press Releases

Governor Signs Law to Reform Illinois’ Human Trafficking Code

Illinois’ human trafficking laws were strengthened today as Governor Pat Quinn signed House Bill 5278, which will help prosecutors build stronger cases against human traffickers who ensnare adult victims. New language in the bill includes “schemes or plans” and other tactics traffickers use to ensnare and control their victims. Previously, undue emphasis was put on proving physical force in adult trafficking cases, so most cases in Illinois focused only on child victims. The bill also clarifies how fines can be collected from prostitution-related offenses and funneled into services for survivors of the sex trade.

Leeanna Majors, a survivor of sex trafficking in Chicago, advocates with Chicago Coalition for the Homeless and testified on behalf of the bill. “The bill is important so that women can be empowered to make a change in their lives, and the traffickers can be held accountable,” Majors said. “Survivors won’t need to show bruises to prove they were trafficked,” she added.

The End Demand Illinois campaign thanks Rep. Kelly Cassidy and Sen. Jacqueline Y. Collins for their leadership in sponsoring this legislation. The General Assembly showed overwhelming support for this bill, which passed in the House 114-0, and in the Senate 56-0-0. End Demand Illinois partnered with the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office to support this legislation.

“Traffickers often use lies and manipulation to bring people into the sex trade. This bill strengthens Illinois law in a way that will enable prosecutors to bring these traffickers to justice,” said Lynne Johnson, director of policy and advocacy for the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE).

“We would like to thank the General Assembly for supporting this legislation. For survivors of the sex trade, this is further evidence that our elected officials care about them and want to hold perpetrators accountable,” said Daria Mueller, associate director of state affairs for Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. As a campaign partner, CCH led advocacy efforts in Springfield for the three End Demand Illinois bills enacted in the past three years.

How the bill will change Illinois’ Trafficking code:

  • Clarifies the ways that a trafficker could obtain or maintain a trafficking victim to include “any scheme, plan, or pattern intended to cause the person to believe that, if the person did not perform such labor or services, that person or another person would suffer serious harm or physical restraint.” Why it matters: Illinois’ trafficking code now covers tactics commonly used by traffickers, who frequently use schemes that manipulate and intimidate vulnerable people.
  • Provides a definition of “serious harm” related to the trafficking victim that duplicates existing federal trafficking code language and includes “any harm, whether physical or nonphysical, including psychological, financial, or reputational.” Why it matters: Traffickers may never need to use physical harm to maintain control, but instead may use other types of threats to control their victims.
  • Enables law enforcement enforcing prostitution-related offenses to collect impoundment fees passed under the 2010 Safe Children Act, even if the charges were filed under a local ordinance. Why it matters: Local law enforcement often charge under local ordinances, and now these fines can become a funding source for services for survivors of the sex trade.

CAASE is the lead agency for End Demand Illinois, a campaign to refocus law enforcement’s attention on pimps, johns and traffickers while proposing supportive services for people impacted by the sex trade. CCH is a campaign partner and leads lobbying efforts for End Demand Illinois. To learn more about the campaign, visit

The Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE) addresses the culture, institutions, and individuals that perpetrate, profit from, or support sexual exploitation, including sexual assault and the commercial sex trade. Its work includes prevention, policy reform, community engagement, and legal services. To learn more, visit or call (773) 244-2230 ext. 3.

Chicago Coalition for the Homeless is the only non-profit in Illinois dedicated to advocating for public policies that curb and can ultimately end homelessness. CCH leads strategic campaigns, community outreach, and public policy initiatives that target the lack of affordable housing in metropolitan Chicago and across Illinois. To learn more