Baton Rouge - Tomorrow, Gov. John Bel Edwards, along with a delegation that includes State Police Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson and state legislators, will travel to Rome, Italy with the Hospitaler Sisters of Mercy to discuss human trafficking as Louisiana takes a leading role in fighting this epidemic.  While on the trip, Gov. Edwards and First Lady Donna Edwards, devout Catholics, have been invited to a special visit with Pope Francis to recognize and encourage the further cooperation among churches and states to fight human trafficking. In April, the Hospitaler Sisters of Mercy broke ground on Metanoia House, a shelter in Louisiana for juvenile victims of human trafficking.  Metanoia House has established a close relationship with law enforcement agencies to ensure victims are identified and given a nurturing environment with individualized support.  The governor and Mrs. Edwards attended the ground breaking and avidly support Metanoia House’s mission of giving all children the chance for a better future. 

According to national statistics, the average age of a trafficking victim is 13, and the Houston to New Orleans corridor has one of the worst trafficking problems in the country.  Louisiana has been recognized as the leading state in the country in the fight against human trafficking.  Since 2014, approximately 100 human trafficking cases have been investigated by Louisiana State Police, including:

  • 27 human trafficking cases in 2016, with 19 victims rescued (16 under the age of 18)
  • 41 investigations of human trafficking in 2015 (12 involving children), with 20 victims rescued in 2015 (11 under the age of 18)

“One of the greatest honors of a Catholic and Christian is to meet the Holy Father,” said Gov. Edwards.  “I am humbled by this opportunity, and I am looking forward to discussing the very real threat that human trafficking imposes on Louisiana.  Col. Edmonson and the Louisiana State Police have done a tremendous job investigating instances of human trafficking, but our work is nowhere near complete. This is an incredible opportunity for Louisiana to learn about the partnerships that are available to assist victims of human trafficking, and I know it’ll be a benefit to our state.”

"Even if one life is saved in our mission to end human trafficking, it’s worth the effort,” said Col. Edmonson.  “We began this process in the previous administration and had tremendous success.  Gov. Edwards is equally committed to putting an end to human trafficking, and we want to give these young women the opportunity to truly succeed.”

While on the trip, Gov. Edwards, Mrs. Edwards and the delegation will tour the North American College where a contingent of Louisiana students are currently studying.

Italian Consolata Sister Eugenia Bonetti has been a leader in the Catholic Church fighting human trafficking and is assisting with the coordination of the trip.  Her efforts brought her to Louisiana to assist the state’s efforts. Sr. Eugenia is chairperson of the ‘Slaves No More' non-profit organization and coordinator of the Italian Religious Superiors’ Counter-trafficking Office for Women and Children. Her network extends to 30 different countries and works in the prevention, rehabilitation, and protection of the victims and their families as well as the repatriation and reintegration of the victims back in their homeland.