During his trip to Italy, Governor John Bel Edwards met with Pope Francis, who blessed the state’s project to support human trafficking victims. Edwards told Vatican Radio that Louisiana is a hotbed for sex trafficking along I-10. He says a big component of the project is retraining police not to treat sex trafficking victims like prostitutes.

“We’re having to retrain police officers to know that many of these are victims. It’s not something akin to slaver, it is slavery. It’s modern day slavery,” Edwards said.

Edwards said during his week-long trip to Italy, he met with anti-trafficking experts to learn best practices for fighting human trafficking. He says as part of their effort to protect victims, they’ll open a shelter near Baton Rouge that can house up to 16 young women.

“So that these young ladies can receive the treatment that they need, whether it's healthcare or counseling,” Edwards said.

Edwards says we have to do much better in Louisiana in ending human trafficking. He’s hopeful that policies implemented in Louisiana will succeed.

“We have a tremendous responsibility to succeed, not just on behalf of the victims, but so that this effort can be replicated elsewhere,” Edwards said.