Cathy Osten


Cathy Osten



February 8, 2022

Sen. Osten, Rep. Conley Ready Bills on Human Trafficking, Inmate Mental Health

HARTFORD – State Senator Cathy Osten (D-Sprague) and state Representative Christine Conley (D-Groton) will introduce two bills this session seeking to combat human sex trafficking in motels and hotels that rent rooms by the hour, and improving mental health services for inmates, where about 80% of females and a third of males are chronically mentally ill.

“We have a couple of seemingly intractable problems facing our state in the form of human sex trafficking at motels and mentally ill inmates, and we’ve got to get a handle on these two problems if we’re going to improve the lives of everyone in this state. I think the desire is there on the part of all legislators and advocates, so this is a year where we should make some solid progress,” Sen. Osten said.

“We need to do more in Connecticut to tackle the issue of human trafficking. This legislation to prohibit places of lodging from offering hourly rates would make it much more difficult for traffickers to conduct business. This is a necessary step toward combatting such a widespread issue,” Rep. Conley said. “On mental health, in our state and across the country we are seeing alarming rates of mental illness among inmates. We need to establish a taskforce to study this issue and to draft legislation to help offer more support to this vulnerable population.”

Neither bill has a bill number yet – those will not be assigned by the Legislative Commissioner’s Office for another week or so – but Sen. Osten and Rep. Conley make the purpose of their bills clear in the bill submission form.

Sen. Osten and Rep. Conley have asked that state law be amended to prevent motels and hotels from offering hourly rates, and that any person seeking to rent a room has to provide identification.

“I’ve spoken with the Motor Transport Association of Connecticut, and even they’re in agreement with this bill, because truckers don’t rent hotel rooms by the hour. They also have a national group called ‘Truckers Against Trafficking’ who’ve been looking at ways to address this problem, and they feel this bill is one tool in the toolbox to end human sex trafficking,” Sen. Osten said. “Even the Connecticut Lodging Association supports the concept of this bill. I’ve asked them both to come and testify when we have a public hearing on this bill.”

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has noted that human traffickers often take advantage of the privacy and anonymity accessible through the hotel and motel industry, and that those locations – which often charge as little as $20 an hour to rent a motel room – can be especially attractive locations for all forms of trafficking.

Motel and hotel staff are also not necessarily educated on how to recognize and report signs of trafficking, DHS said. For example, to combat human trafficking, DHS suggests that hotel staff look for guests who show signs of malnourishment, poor hygiene, and fatigue; who lack freedom of movement or are constantly being monitored; who have no control over or possession of money or identification; and who may be dressed inappropriately for their age.

The other bill filed by Sen. Osten and Rep. Conley seeks to create a state task force that will identify the mental health status of Connecticut’s inmate population; assess how much time someone with a mental health condition serves of their sentence compared to other inmates; weigh DEHMS oversight of identified inmates from incarceration until discharge; identify any childhood physical or sexual trauma they may have; consider conducting an EEG (electroencephalogram) on inmates to identify any possible brain seizure activity; and identify recidivism rates among inmates with mental health needs and what, if any, services they had received since discharge.

“In July 2020, The Connecticut Sentencing Commission reported that 81% of female inmates and 28% of male inmates are chronically mentally ill. And I think even those numbers are low,” Sen. Osten said. “Since the closure of state psychiatric institutions, our state prisons are increasingly being used as de facto psychiatric institutions. We need a task force to study the consequences of that and offer some legislative solutions.”

The report can be found here:

The 2022 legislative session begins Wednesday, February 9 and concludes May 4.