Bryan Cohen Mar. 25, 2013, 6:23pm

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (Legal Newsline) - Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan praised lawmakers in the state House of Representatives on Friday for unanimously supporting a bill to assist victims of human trafficking who were branded by their offenders.

Criminal offenders who engage in human trafficking are known for forcefully tattooing their victims to serve as a brand and sign of ownership. The tattoos may include a trafficker's nickname or bar codes.

Rep. Kelly Burke (D-36th) sponsored House Bill 2640, which was crafted together with Madigan's office, to allow human trafficking victims who were branded to be reimbursed for the cost of removing the branding. The Illinois Crime Victims Compensation Fund would reimburse the victims. The fund was established to help reduce the financial burden imposed on violent crime victims and their families. The bill would help victims to remove the tattoos and recover from the horrific crime.

The House voted 108-0 to send House Bill 2640 to the Senate.

"This legislation will aid human trafficking victims who are subject to often horrific victimization and involuntary servitude," Madigan said. "Removal of branding is not only a painful experience but a costly one, and it is considered a vital part of a victim's psychological and emotional healing."

The bill would add branding to the list of expenses a crime victim may be reimbursed for under the Illinois Crime Victims Compensation Fund. The victim must seek removal of the branding with a licensed or authorized tattoo remover.

Burke said helping to remove the tattoos is essential to providing victims with the freedom and dignity they deserve.

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