The state of Massachusetts was named among the most improved in the U.S. in 2012 after it passed wide-ranging anti-human trafficking laws.
A report published by Polaris Project, one of the leading organizations in the global fight against human trafficking and modern-day slavery, rated and placed all 50 states plus the District of Columbia in one of four tiers based on the human trafficking laws in the state.
South Carolina, West Virginia and Ohio were also rated 'most improved' for taking concrete steps to address human trafficking. Of those states, Massachusetts was singled out for particular praise as it is now also ranked in the top four states having the strongest legal framework.
Washington tops the list, with Minnesota third and Texas fourth.
The Polaris Project, which published its "2012 State Ratings on Human Trafficking Laws" on Tuesday, believes it is critical that state trafficking laws exist to punish the criminals in the global trade and support the survivors.
"Since 2004, Polaris Project has been tracking state laws," said Mary Ellison, Polaris Project's Director of Policy. "In 2004, only four states had human trafficking laws. But in 2012, we are happy to report that 49 states plus District of Columbia have some type of human trafficking laws. In fact, over the past year, 28 states, or 55% of the states, have passed new human trafficking laws."
After enacting a comprehensive human trafficking law in November 2011, Massachusetts moved from the bottom tier in 2011 to the top tier in 2012, and earned the 'most improved' distinction.
"Massachusetts has taken major steps to combat the egregious crime of human trafficking, and we are pleased that this report recognizes those efforts," Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley said.
"We continue to work towards a successful implementation of the new law through investigations, prosecutions, and policy change and look forward to working with stakeholders to end the exploitation of people in our commonwealth."
Meanwhile, Wyoming, Arkansas, Montana and South Dakota were included in the bottom tier, or as the report calls them - the Faltering Four - for what Polaris says was a minimal effort to enact human trafficking legislation.
Wyoming, according to the report, is the only state that has failed to pass any robust laws against human trafficking at the state level.
"Passing strong state laws is a critical step to increasing prosecutions of traffickers and providing local support for survivors," said Ellison.
"It is exciting to see so many state policy makers actively seeking ways to stop human trafficking, but using these new laws to save lives and hold traffickers accountable is what we are ultimately striving for. While states like Washington and Massachusetts are clearly at the top of the pack in our ratings, every state can and should do more to improve and implement their laws."