From Jail, to Bail, to Sale: Trafficking and the Criminal Justice System

Traffickers target individuals whom they believe they can exploit with impunity – individuals who are accessible, vulnerable, and less likely to report their exploitation to law enforcement. As a result, individuals who have a criminal record, are under court supervision, or are otherwise subject to the authority of the criminal justice system are at higher risk for exploitation. Individuals who also struggle with addiction and substance use disorders are especially vulnerable to coercion. The Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report has identified “participants in court-ordered substance use diversion programs” as individuals especially vulnerable to sex and labor trafficking, and recent news reports have validated this assertion. Likewise, the U.S. Department of Justice’s 2022 National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking includes action items aimed at countering common trafficker tactics of manipulating and exploiting individuals with substance use disorders.

This presentation identifies trafficking schemes that involve recruitment from local jails and prisons, as well as from court-sanctioned treatment programs as an alternative to incarceration. The presenters focus on strategies to address victim safety concerns and investigate and prosecute trafficking that intersects with the criminal justice system. Throughout the discussion, the presenters underscore the importance of trauma-informed practices and a multidisciplinary response that includes meaningful access to survivor-led programing and low-barrier services, including appropriate healthcare.

Learning Objectives:
-Identify how traffickers identify, recruit, and coerce victims from jails, prisons, and court-ordered programs.
-Investigate and prosecute human trafficking cases in which victims have intersected with the criminal justice system.
-Collaborate with allied professionals to overcome barriers and provide meaningful access to justice for systems-involved victims.

This presentation was produced by AEquitas under 15POVC-21-GK-03263-HT, awarded by the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this presentation are those of the contributors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

“Next-Level” Compulsion of Victim Testimony in Crimes of Sexual and Intimate Partner Violence: Prosecutorial Considerations Before Using Bench Warrants/Body Attachments and Material Witness Warrants

This article examines the considerations that should be weighed in deciding whether to employ next-level measures, such as material witness warrants and body attachments, to compel victim testimony in sexual and intimate partner violence cases. While prosecutors have a great deal of discretion in deciding whether to use compulsive measures beyond issuance of a subpoena, the decision to resort to such measures should be made with great care and with an awareness of the potential consequences, as well as consideration of possible alternatives.

This project was supported by Grant No. 15JOVW-21-GK-02220-MUMU awarded by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women (OVW). The opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this presentation are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice.

Next-Level Compulsion of Victim Testimony

Guiding and Supporting the Victim’s Choices Regarding Participation in the Prosecution of Sexual and Intimate Partner Violence

The criminal justice process can expose survivors of sexual and intimate partner violence to unique re-traumatization. While multidisciplinary response efforts employing victim-centered and trauma-informed practices have greatly facilitated the reporting and engagement of survivors of sexual and intimate partner violence, the process itself remains daunting. Some survivors ultimately decline to participate, avoiding service of process or refusing to appear under subpoena. This article explores strategies that will assist advocates and allied professionals in guiding and supporting victims throughout the criminal justice process in ways that will help to ensure that their choices about participation are fully informed and that their interests are protected and advanced at all stages in the process.

This project was supported by Grant No. 15JOVW-21-GK-02220-MUMU awarded by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women (OVW). The opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this presentation are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice.

Guiding and Supporting the Victim’s Choices

 

A Course of Exploitation: The Intersection of Stalking and Sex Trafficking

When offenders engage in a course of conduct that includes sexual exploitation, they perpetrate dangerous and often misidentified and misunderstood crimes, including stalking and sex trafficking. Both crimes are highly contextual in nature and require a nuanced analysis of the relationship between the offender and the victim, as well as the various tactics utilized by abusers to control, intimidate, and traumatize victims with impunity. Stalking behaviors are used to force or coerce individuals to engage in commercial sexual activities or to intimidate and prevent them from engaging with the criminal justice system.

Presenters explore the dynamics of stalking and sex trafficking. They focus on the importance of understanding the context in which both crimes occur and the common tactics used by perpetrators. This presentation provides strategies to improve the identification of these “course of conduct” crimes, increase offender accountability through successful investigations and prosecutions, and minimize further harm to victims and survivors by ensuring they are connected with meaningful services and tools to plan for their safety.

At the end of this presentation, participants will be better able to:
-Recognize the intersections between stalking and sexual exploitation
-Investigate and prosecute crimes of stalking and sexual exploitation
-Connect victims and survivors to meaningful services, including safety planning

 

This project was supported by Grant No. 15JOVW-21-GK-02220-MUMU and 2017-TA-AX-K074 awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this program are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.

Ten Strategies for Prosecuting Child Sexual Abuse at the Hands of a Family Member

Despite the volume of research and literature addressing sexual abuse perpetrated against a child by a family member, individuals inside and outside of the criminal justice system continue to misperceive common dynamics, misunderstand victim behavior, and minimize offender dangerousness. Judges and juries unfamiliar with the dynamics of sexual assault may overlook offenders’ grooming tactics or misperceive common victim reactions to abuse as evidence of the victim’s lack of credibility. Prosecutors handling these cases face unique challenges. This article contains ten strategies that will help prosecutors prepare and litigate cases of sexual abuse perpetrated against a child by a family member.

This project was supported by Grant No. 15JOVW-21-GK-02220-MUMU awarded by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women (OVW). The opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this presentation are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice.

Ten Strategies for Prosecuting Child Sexual Abuse at the Hands of a Family Member

Seeking Justice Through Sexual Violence Prosecutions

This article explains the problems that have arisen as a result of overreliance on conviction rates in cases of sexual violence. It identifies the core principles that should inform a model response to these crimes to further the goals of justice — i.e., offender accountability, victim well-being, and community safety. Finally, it discusses how prosecutors can broaden definitions of “success” in the prosecution of sexual violence, and how they can measure their current response as well as efforts toward improvement.

This project was supported by Grant No. 15JOVW-21-GK-02220-MUMU awarded by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women (OVW). The opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this presentation are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice.

Seeking Justice Through Sexual Violence Prosecutions

A Broader Sense of Justice: Respecting Victim Autonomy While Pursuing Offender Accountability

Prosecutors seeking justice in crimes of sexual and domestic violence must often balance holding perpetrators accountable and valuing victim autonomy. Many victims are unable to participate in the prosecution for reasons including fear, ongoing trauma, love for or loyalty to the perpetrator, intimidation, financial harm, self-blame, or embarrassment. Reliving the traumatization of their sexual assault or domestic abuse while feeling like they are in the spotlight can be overwhelming and lead to reluctance to participate in the process. When this happens, the pressure to ensure offenders are fully prosecuted may tempt prosecutors to utilize more extreme methods such as material witness warrants or to seek body attachments or bench warrants—without full appreciation of the impact on the victim or a consideration of possible alternatives.

This presentation discusses the obstacles victims face when considering whether to participate in the prosecution of domestic violence or sexual assault and suggests strategies that prosecutors can use to minimize these barriers to facilitate victim participation. Presenters highlight the negative impacts that pre-trial detention and other next-level measures have on victims and on the community. In circumstances when victims are unable to participate, presenters will discuss possible alternatives for the prosecutor and considerations for balancing public safety risks with victim self-determination.

At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be better able to:
-Identify barriers faced by victims participating in investigations and prosecutions of sexual and domestic violence.
-Develop strategies to support victim participation.
-Balance public safety concerns in holding offenders accountable with victim interests in autonomy and self-determination.
-Employ the least restrictive methods possible to enable victims to testify when next-level measures must be utilized.

 

This project was supported by Grant No. 15JOVW-21-GK-02220-MUMU awarded by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women (OVW). The opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this presentation are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice.

Upstream Violence Prevention: The Role of Extreme Risk Protection Orders in Mitigating Gun Violence

Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPOs), also known as Red Flag Laws, are a promising tool of intervention but are relatively unknown to prosecutors across the nation. ERPOs are court orders that temporarily restrict access to firearms for individuals at elevated risk of harming themselves or others. As caseloads swell and rates of violence surge, prosecutors, law enforcement, and advocates can learn about and begin to deploy tools that can help mitigate and prevent future harm upstream— when warning signs first come to light.

This presentation is led by national experts from the Regional Domestic Violence Firearms Enforcement Unit of the King County, Washington Prosecuting Attorney’s Office and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Presenters discuss how criminal justice professionals can utilize ERPOs to restrict firearm access for individuals exhibiting a wide variety of high-risk behaviors. They also explore the efficacy of ERPOS to reduce gun violence.

As a result of this presentation, participants will be better able to:
-Understand the purpose and scope of extreme risk protective orders
-Incorporate extreme risk protective orders into existing protective order practice

Foundations of Sexual Violence Prosecutions: Moving Towards Justice

This webinar is part of a 10-episode podcast-style series focused on the foundational elements of prosecuting sexual violence cases. In each episode, AEquitas Attorney Advisor Jane Anderson engages in conversations with other AEquitas staff, former prosecutors with years of experience prosecuting sexual violence. 

In this episode, Jane and Attorney Advisor John Wilkinson discuss how motions practice can enhance individual sexual violence prosecutions while also advancing important legal issues. They discuss how to argue for the admission of “other bad acts” evidence and expert testimony, strategies for opposing defense’s improper discovery requests and motions to pierce the rape shield, and methods for educating judges on novel issues.

At the conclusion of this episode, viewers will be better able to:
– Analyze cases to determine issues suitable for pretrial motion practice
– Brief judges on novel legal and factual issues
– Litigate discovery and evidentiary motions to promote victim safety and privacy

Additional resources related to this episode:
Safeguarding Victim Privacy in a Digital World: Ethical Considerations for Prosecutors
The Prosecutors’ Resource on Forfeiture by Wrongdoing
It’s About Context, Not Character: Admitting Evidence Under R. 404(b)

 

This project was supported by Grant No. 15JOVW-21-GK-02220-MUMU awarded by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women (OVW). The opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this presentation are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice.

Foundations of Sexual Violence Prosecutions: Seeking Justice with DNA

This webinar is part of a 10-episode podcast-style series focused on the foundational elements of prosecuting sexual violence cases. In each episode, AEquitas Attorney Advisor Jane Anderson engages in conversations with other AEquitas staff, former prosecutors with years of experience prosecuting sexual violence. 

In this episode, Jane and Attorney Advisor Patti Powers explore how DNA evidence can enhance sexual violence investigations and prosecutions, including cases in which the offender is known. They discuss how DNA can uncover serial and cross-over offenders, advanced technologies in the field of DNA forensics, and how to admit DNA evidence and expert testimony at trial.

At the conclusion of this episode, viewers will be better able to:
– Describe how DNA evidence can illustrate the dangerousness of offenders
– Admit expert testimony to present DNA evidence and educate the jury
– Link the offender to the victim and crime scene through DNA evidence

Additional resources related to this episode:
DNA 101 – Mixtures, Statistics, and Methodologies: Science and Application to Investigation and Prosecution
DNA Testing, Workflow, Collaboration, and Options
Advancing Justice with Case Review and Informed Strategies for DNA Testing

 

This project was supported by Grant No. 15JOVW-21-GK-02220-MUMU awarded by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women (OVW). The opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this presentation are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice.