Tuesday, 05 May 2015 15:58

The New Attorney General

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   Lorretta Lynch, US Attorney General By a vote of 56 to 43, Senate has finally confirmed Loretta Lynch as the first African-American woman attorney general. As if that’s not impressive enough, as the U.S. attorney for the Easter District of New York, she has also been the nation’s most successful prosecutor of sex traffickers. Her office has 55 indictments in human trafficking cases and has rescued more than 110 victims, including at least 20 minors, in the past 10 years.

    She has proved herself more interested in making a difference than making money. After working for a big Wall Street law firm, she announced she was taking a 75 percent pay cut to become an assistant U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn. President Clinton appointed her the U.S. attorney for the district, including Queens, Staten Island, and Long Island. She was replaced under President Bush administration in 2001. In 2010, President Obama then brought her back for a second time.

    Described as fiercely focused and unshakably honest, Lynch has been one of the country’s leading advocates of victims of sex trafficking. Under Lynch, the eastern district is currently prosecuting at least five cases relating to sex trafficking, which is more active prosecutions than any other US attorney’s office in the country. Anne Milgram, a former prosecutor on human trafficking cases in the eastern district, said this is because Lynch made these types of cases a “personal priority”.

    Lynch arranged the extradition and arraignment of four suspects from Mexico in two separate sex trafficking cases, in December 2012. In 2013, she sent a New York bar owner and two co-defendants to prison for dozens of years each for running a sex-trafficking ring between Mexico and two bars on Long Island. In 2014, three brothers convicted of sex trafficking were sentenced to double-digit prison terms for luring minors as young as 14 to be transported illegally into the United States and forced to work as prostitutes in New York City and other cities. She has also worked tirelessly to help “victim-mothers” regain custody of children who had been held hostage in Mexico as a way to keep them working as prostitutes in New York. At least 14 children have been reunited with their mothers.

    With achievements like these, we should all be celebrating Loretta Lynch’s confirmation.

    “The sex trafficking of young girls and women is modern-day slavery. We will do everything in our power to eradicate it.” - Loretta Lynch

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Victims of trafficking are often re-victimized by the justice system, by seeking aid only to wind up punished as criminals themselves or reported to immigration enforcement. New legislation recently passed aims to change that. S. 178 passed in the Senate on April 22, 2015 and is on the way to the House where it will either be combined with previously passed legislation or presented as a whole new package for House lawmakers to approve. The goal of this bill is to help law enforcement prosecute traffickers while also improving services for victims.

After the longest attorney general confirmation process in three decades, senators finally unanimously passed this anti-human trafficking bill, with the addition of the Hyde Amendment. The Hyde Amendment is a provision that bans the use of federal funds for abortions except in cases of rape or incest.

Luckily, Senate passed a version of the bill that involves two different sources of funding instead of one. The money collected from sex traffickers will be specifically used for legal aid, law enforcement and other services not related to health care. Alternately, health and medical services will be paid for by federal dollars already contingent to Hyde restrictions.

The bill is pretty lengthy, but here are a few of the most crucial provisions:

  • The bill will create a "Council on Human Trafficking" to advise policymakers.  The council will be made up of eight to 14 trafficking victims to serve as a non-governmental advisory board.
  • It will establish the "Human Exploitation Rescue Operative (HERO) Child Rescue Corps." In the HERO Corps, "the returning military heroes of the United States are trained and hired to investigate crimes of child exploitation in order to target predators and rescue children from sexual abuse and slavery." 
  • It will “Clarify the range of conduct punished as sex trafficking” and make “absolutely clear for judges, juries, prosecutors, and law enforcement officials that criminals who purchase sexual acts from human trafficking victims may be arrested, prosecuted, and convicted as sex trafficking offenders.” Basically, the person soliciting a victim would not have to know they are trying to purchase sex from someone underage or someone trafficked, they need only act “in reckless disregard of the fact” that this might be the case.

The back-and-forth between parties on the bill, while discouraging, has created a great opportunity for some light to be shed on the issue of trafficking. “We can end slavery; all it takes is attention.” Tarah Demant, senior director of the Identity and Discrimination Unit at Amnesty International.


Friday, 17 April 2015 21:39

John Shaming

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Colorado Springs police have recently started a controversial program that publicizes the names and photos of those convicted of prostitution soliciting crimes, a tactic many refer to as "john shaming". 

This is not a new tactic; a study funded by the National Institution of Justice found that about 60 percent of police departments that arrest these johns publicize their identity in some way. A program in Baltimore has gone as far as encouraging residents to attend court in prostitution cases to shame offenders. John-shaming is known as a preventative tactic, but it's still unclear how well it actually works. 

Mark Gagan, a police captain in Richmond, California, thought this was an effective deterrent and posted mug shots of the men arrested in prostitution stings on the Department's Facebook page. However, he said what happened next gave him pause. Facebook users started to add these men's home addresses, work information, and even school they attended. Mr. Gagan ordered the whole thing be taken down within 72 hours.

While turning the shame to the johns is a great step forward, there is no research to show that this tactic is effective in deterring this kind of crime. It also raises questions like, will this drive these criminals to turn to family members, children, and other victims they deem "safe"? To what degree will this cause the johns family and friends, who don't know about their activities, to be ostracized by their community? 

I believe the issue is much more delicate than john-shaming addresses and we should all consider the bigger picture when considering programs like this. 

We'd love to hear your thoughts!



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