Posts tagged with: Criminal law

Blog author: ehilton
Thursday, July 23, 2015
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benevolence farmsIn today’s American, nearly a quarter million women are incarcerated, primarily for drug-related or non-violent crimes. That’s roughly an 800 percent increase in the past 30 years. And female felons don’t have any easier a time finding work than their male counterparts. Typically, about half of those released from prison have no stable home, no transportation … and few legal job skills. Many of these people struggle with addiction and/or mental health issues as well.

One woman, a social worker-turned-entrepreneur in North Carolina, has found a way to join her passion for fresh food with her passion for helping these women. Tanya Jisa now oversees Benevolence Farm,

nestled in pastoral lands west of Durham, N.C., which will serve as a transitional living program for just released female ex-convicts. For a period of six months to two years, these women will learn about how to operate the farm, growing their own food along with produce to be sold at farm stands, farmers markets, and local grocery stores.

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bail bondsYou may think that if you’re a law-abiding citizen, the concept of “bail” may be irrelevant. Well, maybe you forgot to pay your car insurance. Or maybe your license lapsed. You get pulled over because your tail light is out. It’s not a violent crime – a lapse in judgement, or a lack of money, perhaps.

And suddenly you need bail. $1000, the judge tells you, or you have to go to Rikers Island, New York’s main prison complex. You and 140,000 criminals. And someone like Robert Durst, accused of murder in Texas, is able to cough up a quarter million and walk away free.

America’s for-profit bail system is a $14 million a year industry, and the U.S. is one of only two countries that allows a for-profit system. According to a 2012 Justice Policy Institute report:

For-profit bail bonding costs taxpayers through increased jail and other justice expenses. In addition, it impacts people from low income communities – generally the loved ones of the accused person – who must pay nonrefundable fees for the bond regardless of case outcome and who, through contracts with the bondsmen, bear the real monetary risk of paying the full bail amount in the event of a court no-show.

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Detail from Pamela Alderman’s “The Scarlet Cord”

Those of you who are regular readers here at the Acton PowerBlog are very familiar with Elise Graveline Hilton’s extensive research and work on the subject of human trafficking, both here on the blog and also through her recently published monograph, A Vulnerable World. (For those of you who don’t have a copy, you can pick up a paperback version at the Acton Bookshop; a Kindle version is available as well.) As Elise was doing the hard work of writing her book, Pamela Alderman was exploring the world of human trafficking through her artistic talents, producing an installation called “The Scarlet Cord.” Her powerful work was created for ArtPrize 2014 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and went on to be displayed at the 2015 Super Bowl in Phoenix, Arizona. It is currently on display at the Acton Institute’s Prince-Broekhuizen Gallery.

In conjuction with Acton’s exhibition of “The Scarlet Cord,” we hosted an evening event featuring talks from both Hilton and Alderman. If you weren’t able to join us for the event, we encourage you to take the time to watch the video of the event, and to share it with your family and friends. Learn to look for the telltale signs of trafficking in your day to day life, and join the effort to stamp out this inhuman practice.

Blog author: ehilton
Monday, May 11, 2015
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200271918-001For many of us ladies, getting our nails done is a regular bit of pampering. We stop off at the local nail salon, grab a magazine and relax while someone paints our nails. We pay our $25 and off we go.

We never, for one moment, consider the person doing our nails could be a slave.

For those who study human trafficking, nail salons have long been held as a hotspot for trafficking victims. But for the average client, the idea that the person hunched over their nails is literally a slave never crosses their mind. Last week’s New York Times followed women in four urban settings in the U.S., exploring the deplorable world they work in. (more…)

Blog author: sstanley
Friday, April 24, 2015
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Acton’s Communication’s Specialist, Elise Hilton, recently penned an op-ed for the Detroit News on human trafficking. She argues that not only is it bigger than people realize, but it’s happening in Acton’s home, Michigan.

The facts are grim:

Michigan’s proximity to the Canadian border and waterways increases the likelihood of trafficking in our state.

Michigan truck stops and hotels are used for sex trafficking.

Major events such as ArtPrize and the North American International Auto Show are also major draws for sex trafficking in Michigan.

Michigan agriculture, manufacturing and construction businesses attract labor trafficking.

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A Cambodian boy working on a Thai fishing vessel

A Cambodian boy working on a Thai fishing vessel

It is no secret that Thailand is rife with human trafficking. It is the world’s number one destination for sex travel. (Yes, that means people travel to Thailand solely for the purpose of having sex with men, women and children who are trafficked.) Thailand’s fishing industry is also dependent on human trafficking, often using young boys at sea for long periods of time, sometimes working them to death.

Quartz is reporting today that the EU is considering a ban of Thailand seafood because of the industry’s use of slave labor. (more…)

backpageBackpage.com has, for years, been a place for people to buy and sell household items, cars, post ads for apartment rentals … and for human trafficking. Despite the fact that the site allows for the trafficking of men, women and children, law enforcement has been lax in clamping down on the trading in flesh. Even worse, Backpage allows for the use of Bitcoin, which means such transactions are virtually untraceable.

Breitbart News reported:

A recent court case, Doe v. Backpage.com LLC, brings the issue in to astounding focus. The case filed through the Massachusetts federal court by two women details the horrifying abuses they endured as minors when they were sold for sex through ads placed on Backpage.com. Unfortunately, this case is not the first time we are hearing about this; it is one of the numerous accounts that have been reported in the last few years.

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Information TechnologyFor those fighting human trafficking, the battle is frustrating. Traffickers are typically one step ahead of law enforcement, and they are quite tech-savvy. Microsoft, along with other tech companies, is trying to change that.

According to Microsoft’s A. T. Ball:

Human trafficking is one of the largest, best-organized and most profitable types of crime, ranking behind only the illegal weapons and drug trades. It violates numerous national and international laws and has ensnared more than 25 million people around the world.

The problem is not merely one of criminal violence. The criminals who perpetrate and benefit from this trafficking are taking full advantage of information technology in plying their trade. We must work together to bring the advances in socio-technical research, privacy, interoperability, data sharing, cloud, and mobility to bear against trafficking.

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Fail-Debtors-Prison-Poor-TaxWhile payday loans can help some people out of a financial jam, they tend to prey on the poor and create a usury situation. Now that same predatory financial monster is moving into a new territory: bonds, courts fees and fines.

Take the case of Kevin Thompson, a 19-year-old who was fined for speeding and failure to renew his license. Although he had a job, he could not afford to pay the $810 fine the court handed down. What happens next sounds Kafka-esque: (more…)

slavery-handsThousands of girls and women in Iraq and Syria have been captured by the Islamic State and sold into sex slavery. But one Iraqi man is trying to save them by buying sex slaves in order to free and reunite them with their families.

As the Christian Post reports, “an Iraqi man, who remains nameless, disguises himself as a human trafficking dealer in order to ‘infiltrate’ the Islamic State and get the militants to sell him sex slaves. But in purchasing sex slaves, the man finds a way to reunite them with their fathers, husbands, and the rest of their family.”

It’s hard to criticize a man for using his resources and risking his life in order to free these women. But while the individual effects—women and girls being freed—are laudatory, the long term effect of implementing the policy on a large scale could be disastrous.

In the 1990s, humanitarian groups traveled to Sudan to redeem slaves by buying them out of slavery. The result of the program, as economist Tyler Cowen explains, was likely an increase in the number of people enslaved.