Tuesday, June 6, 2023

The Human Trafficking Institute on importance of objective framework in human trafficking prosecution and investigation

Last updated Thursday, May 25, 2023 11:08 ET

A global problem that requires a full-scale method to be controlled. Many practices within legal systems decrease the number of real victims that could be saved and the amount of traffickers stopped.

Washington DC , 05/25/2023 / SubmitMyPR /

Human trafficking has been reported as the fastest growing criminal industry in the world, only second to drug trafficking. According to the Department of Homeland Security, it generates an estimated $150 billion in global revenue. Eighty percent of cases have been identified as forced labor, while the remainder are sex trafficking crimes. Both offenses carry severe sentences that must be properly prosecuted in order to ensure a perpetrator is incarcerated. However, fictitious victims and restitution are major problems affecting how critical resources are utilized and how many traffickers are being charged. To maximize effective sentencing and protection of victims, we need a coordinated method across all organizations. Nonprofits like the Human Trafficking Institute are advocating for this change through releasing their annual Federal Human Trafficking Report and advising branches on their collaborative approach to this rampant issue.

Legally, restitution is defined as the obligation to compensate a victim for the mental and physical harm they have endured because of a crime. For human trafficking cases prosecuted in the United States under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, restitution is mandatory. Despite this legality, the Human Trafficking Institute found only 48% of 116 defendants paid restitution when it was mandatory. This can be explained by the nuanced nature of human trafficking crimes or the judgment a practitioner has about a demanding restitution.

Human trafficking cases are difficult to prosecute because scenarios can vary widely and the idea of coercion is complicated to convey to a jury. Victims may be physically harmed by their perpetrators, but large numbers are trapped in the cycle of exploitation by psychological shackles. Although this is an equally tortuous way of being bonded to an exploiter, jurors struggle to understand why a victim doesn’t attempt to leave. The answer to this question depends on the individual circumstances of a case, which means prosecutors must intimately understand how to express human trafficking to a court and secure a guilty verdict.

In the case of practitioner judgment, restitution is left unfilled because a judge may perceive a defendant as indigent, or unable to pay these fines. Additionally, they may believe that a victim doesn’t want restitution, which leaves a practitioner confused on what decision to make. These scenarios are frequent and legal professionals must be educated on the importance of asking for restitution.

Financial compensation will never fully heal a survivor, but it is a key component to winning justice for themselves and their families who have all suffered at the hands of a criminal. For trafficked minors, restitution is a significant tool for continuing their life past this trauma. This money can help them access resources they need and protect themselves from future solicitations.

The Human Trafficking Institute has identified fictitious victims as another subcategory of human trafficking that requires additional education. While HTI supports sting operations that uncover individuals seeking to exploit victims, they also believe these tactics should modify their approach to include real victims. This means HTI would like law enforcement keeping all types of victims in mind. Undercover operations that involve fictitious victims are generally minors despite the fact that human trafficking affects many different kinds of people across the globe.

A balanced amount of time and resources should be applied to fictitious scenarios and real life crimes taking place. This equal allocation would allow more real investigations to take place, more traffickers to be arrested, and higher numbers of victims saved. To do this, the Human Trafficking Institute suggests reverse stings: Posing as a buyer instead of a seller to pinpoint transporters, advertisers, and others involved in trafficking schemes.

Human trafficking has become more advanced with the introduction of the internet and its convenience for soliciting buyers or recruiting victims. Because of this element alone, the Human Trafficking Institute sees a clear need to modernize prosecution and investigative methods. The problems of restitution and fictitious victims furthers this need and HTI tries to address it through advising policy for future criminal cases. The Human Trafficking Institute has the overall mission to empower prosecutors, law enforcement, and other practitioners to locate traffickers, hold them accountable, and protect victims.

HTI Senior Legal Counsel, Lindsey Lane, on the importance of restitution and taking a balanced approach for human trafficking prosecution and investigation:

“We need to see improvement with restitution and considering real victims in fictitious situations. If you imagine the level of psychological, emotional trauma a victim experiences at the hand of their trafficker, it’s so devastating that a successful trial isn’t enough to make them feel whole again. Financial compensation is legally mandatory and it’s the least we can do for these survivors. In terms of investigations and prosecutions, fictitious situations should be adapted to address the people trapped in the cycle of exploitation, not only the people who are interested in buying.”

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