Legislation sponsored by Assemblywomen Serena DiMaso (R-Monmouth) and Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen) strengthens the regulation of massage and bodywork establishment in order to combat prostitution and human trafficking was approved by the Assembly Homeland Security Committee today.
“The massage industry is a hotbed of human trafficking,” said DiMaso. “This bill reins in an out-of-control industry. Changing the rules will protect trafficking victims. We will shut down facilities profiting from illegal activities.”
The bill, A-3913, prohibits employees from living in such establishments, regulates their hours of operation, requires that the establishments, management and employees be licensed and registered by the New Jersey Board of Massage and Bodywork Therapy and prohibits the advertising of illegal sexual activity. Additionally, the bill provides for unannounced inspections of the establishments and prohibits certain doors from being locked at the establishment during their hours of operation. The Board will publish a list of licensed facilities annually.
Violations of the law will be a fourth degree crime, a felony that carries a 18 month prison term and fines of up to $10,000.
An NJ.com article earlier this year cited a Polaris Project report, Human Trafficking in Illicit Massage Businesses, which claims there were 373 massage services advertising sexual services in New Jersey. Polaris documented nearly 3,000 cases of human trafficking connected to more than 9,000 massage parlors across the nation, according to the NJ.com report.
“This is going on right under our noses,” said DiMaso. “When police raid a facility, the workers, often trafficking victims, are arrested while the operators shut the doors and disappear, only to do the same thing later at another location. This legislation prevents that from happening.”
Senators Declan O’Scanlon and Tom Kean Jr. have introduced the identical bill in the State Senate. It is awaiting a hearing in the Senate Commerce Committee