Miami Law HOPE Fellow Helped Draft Florida Safe Harbor Act


Miami Law alumnus, Thomas Oglesby, JD '11 and former HOPE (Helping Others Through Pro Bono Efforts) Fellow, was part of the team of exceptional attorneys, law enforcement officers, mental health and health care professionals who delivered the Florida Safe Harbor Act to Governor Rick Scott. The Act provides for children who have been victims of commercial sexual exploitation.

Oglesby is a passionate advocate who continues to work diligently to find systemic solutions to ongoing problems in our community and others. His work, in partnership with Kristi House's Project Gold, focused on combating domestic sex trafficking of minors in South Florida. He has demonstrated his commitment to ensuring victims of sexual exploitation are provided with legal services through involvement in the South Florida Commercially Sexually Exploited Minors working group and the Physicians for Human Rights at the Miller School of Medicine.

"As a HOPE Fellow, Tom Oglesby worked with Kristi House Director, Trudy Novicki, to ensure that first responders are sensitized to and equipped to support women and children victims of trafficking," said Marni Lennon, Assistant Dean, Public Interest and Pro Bono, and Director of HOPE Public Interest Resource Center. "This legislation is monumental in creating a safe harbor for victims. Tom's dedication, and ongoing commitment to guarantee protection is afforded to some of the most vulnerable and exploited in our state is indicative of his character. We are so proud of his ongoing efforts in our community as a Miami Law graduate."

The Florida Safe Harbor Act will allow first responders the option of treating commercially sexually exploited children as child-victims by dropping them off at private treatment centers. These "Safe Harbors" offer the opportunity for these children to begin breaking the cycles of violence and abuse that lead to their exploitation and building a brighter future. This bill amends the definition of sexual exploitation to include children who are induced into prostitution, which on average occurs around age 13, and allows police the discretion of arresting the child-victim or delivering them directly to a Safe House, if one is available, and to provide for the sheltering of sexually exploited children in specifically designated short and long term staff-secure Safe Houses. The legislation increases civil penalties for those who procure others to commit prostitution, and allows victim compensation for commercially sexually exploited children. The Act establishes a rebuttable presumption that child-victims of commercial sexual exploitation, who commit a first offense of prostitution, be placed in dependency rather than delinquency.

"I had the pleasure to supervise Tom Oglesby during his UM HOPE Fellowship at Kristi House," said Trudy Novicki, Executive Director. "Tom played an important role in laying the foundation for the passage of the Safe Harbor Act by representing Kristi House at the Statewide Human trafficking sub-committee meetings when I could not attend, and conducting extensive research nationwide during the writing of the actual Safe Harbor legislation. He is to be commended for his dedicated advocacy for exploited children in the State of Florida."

"Florida's Safe Harbor Legislation helps meet an important need in our community by providing law enforcement personnel who have contact with sexually trafficked minors with options for making these children safe while providing services and seeing that they begin to get treatment," said Oglesby, now a law clerk at Shutts & Bowen. "Miami Law helped me develop the oral advocacy and research skills that were so important to my work with Kristi House to help get the bill passed, particularly in writing responses to legislative impact statements and bill comparisons, and helping to represent Kristi House on the Governor's Sexually Exploited Minors Committee and Human Trafficking Task Force. H.O.P.E also provided an incredible amount of resources, helping me turn an abstract interest in human trafficking into a passion with a clear set of goals through ample guidance and by helping me to establish connections with others in the community working on this issue."