Kudos to Ohio!

Human-trafficking bill sent to House


Thursday, December 2, 2010  02:57 AM


Calling it Ohio’s action to “end modern-day slavery,” the Ohio Senate voted unanimously yesterday to increase punishments for human trafficking. The House is expected to pass the bill next week.

The Senate approved the legislation after some drama. Sen. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, initially pushed to add a major criminal-sentencing overhaul to the bill, but he backed down after a private meeting with his GOP colleagues.

Sen. Teresa Fedor, D-Toledo, who sponsored the bill with Sen. Timothy J. Grendell, R-Chesterland, said her wake-up call on the issue came in 2005, when the FBI busted a large prostitution ring in Harrisburg, Pa.

Fedor said she was “horrified” to learn that of the 177 girls and women involved, “77 had come from my district, Toledo.” Of those, she said, 38 were younger than 18, and one was 10.

Toledo ranks fourth in the nation in human-trafficking arrests and rescues, she said, trailing only Miami, Las Vegas and Portland, Ore.

“In passing this bill, we will be one step closer to eradicating this atrocity,” she told her colleagues. “The federal government can no longer handle the entire caseload in Ohio.”

If the bill becomes law, Ohio would join 44 other states in making human trafficking a stand-alone felony. It would be a second-degree felony with a maximum eight-year sentence.

The bill also would:

• Make human trafficking an offense of violence.

• Add the definition of human trafficking to the crimes of kidnapping and abduction.

• Make kidnapping based on involuntary servitude a first-degree felony.

• Make it a crime to destroy identification documents with the intent of human trafficking.

• Make compelling prostitution a first-degree felony if the victim is younger than 16.

“It’s hard to believe in 2010 we are standing here talking about human trafficking and involuntary servitude,” Grendell said. But he said he has seen it in his own town, where a raid found a number of women forced to work at a massage parlor.

Grendell said the bill will help law enforcement and prosecutors deal with the various levels of the crime, from the pimps on the street to those behind the scenes creating false documents, transporting young victims and funding the operations.

And it’s not just about prostitution, he said, noting those who are trapped in “substandard labor conditions by those who wish to exploit perhaps their immigration status or other issues.”

There is a “very good possibility” the bill will pass the House next week, said Dave Isaacs, spokesman for Speaker Armond Budish, D-Beachwood. “It’s a priority for the speaker.”


Study: does decriminalizing child porn lead to lower rates of sex abuse?

Interesting article. What do you think about this research and it’s results?

In an article published in Archives of Sexual Behavior, Dr. Milton Diamond and researchers from the University of Hawaii examined the relationship between the availability of legal child pornography and the incidence of child sex abuse. What they found may surprise you.
Diamond examined the number of sex-related crimes recorded in The Czech Republic in the 15 years before the country switched to a democratic government in 1989, and the 18 years after. During this change, the government also relaxed its ban on sexually explicit materials, which included the decriminalization of child porn. Diamond’s team discovered that the number of reported cases of child sex abuse dropped significantly after the ban on sexually explicit material lifted. This research would appear to support the idea that porn provides an outlet for sexual frustrations instead of serving as a catalyst for abuse.

In the case of the Czech Republic, it may be difficult to directly link the relaxed pornography laws with lowered sex crimes considering the entire society dramatically changed with the fall of communism. However, researchers note that similar drops in sex crimes involving children also occurred in other countries that permit child porn, including Denmark and Japan. Again, even with these countries it’s difficult to attribute lowered rates of sex crimes with porn as opposed to other factors such as legalized prostitution.

Also, even if the decriminalization of child porn was shown to reduce abuse rates, there’s still the issue of the welfare of the children depicted in such material. While Diamond made the point that he does not endorse the exploitation of real children, his team suggests that artificially produced materials may be just as effective. In Japan, the trend of Magna, or sexually explicit comic characters, may be what they had in mind. Many of these illustrated characters depict school girls of an unspecified age. There has even been a recent trend of Japanese men who “date” electronic Magna characters via electronic devices or pillows featuring their Magna girlfriends.

Read more about this controversial research at sciencedaily.com

Milton Diamond, Eva Jozifkova, Petr Weiss. “Pornography and Sex Crimes in the Czech Republic.” Archives of Sexual Behavior, 2010; DOI: 10.1007/s10508-010-9696-

Reporter’s Notebook: On Oakland thoroughfare, sexual slavery a lucrative business

Dan Simon

Oakland (CNN) – I have lived in the San Francisco Bay area for nearly 5 years. As a reporter, I’d like to think I’m pretty well informed about what is happening in my community. But I had no idea what was happening on International Boulevard in Oakland, California.

It’s a major thoroughfare, but locals know it as the “track.” As we discovered while working with police and prosecutors, it is ground zero for child prostitution.

Go to the “track” at any time of the day or night and you will find numerous girls working the streets. And these girls are noticeably underage. According to police, many of them are recruited as young as 12 years old.

Undercover officers conduct weekly prostitution stings to get as many of them off the streets as possible. A couple weeks ago, we were invited to come along to watch how it happens.

Over the course of two nights, we saw the girls get detained and brought to a holding facility behind a mall where they are not treated as criminals, but as victims.

“To look at them as prostitutes is a complete misnomer because they’re sexually exploited children. They’re victims of child abuse and it’s slavery,” said Sharmin Bock, who heads up the human exploitation and trafficking unit for the Alameda District Attorney’s office.

As we learned, it’s clear there is one thing driving this whole enterprise: money. A pimp with 4 girls who each bring in $500 a day is taking in more than $600,000 a year. That’s all cash, tax free. Human trafficking has become so profitable that drug dealers are increasingly turning to pimping.

Experts say the girls aren’t allowed to keep any of the money.

“I have to say traffickers are by far the most manipulative of all the people I have prosecuted in my 21 years,” said Bock.

Most of the girls are runaways, with nowhere to turn and little self esteem. It’s likened to Stockholm syndrome, where victims bond with their captors. For all their labor, Bock says, they may wind up with a meal from a fast food restaurant.

The “track” basically has a whole infrastructure set up for prostitution. Cheap motels dot the boulevard and there are lots of side streets for johns to sit in their cars and wait for the right girl to come along.

Officers try to target the youngest girls. (Getting the exact age of a girl can be tricky because many of them lie once they’re detained and they often don’t carry identification.)

For me, the most surprising thing about our ride along was the realization that this is actually happening in America. You often think of this kind of activity happening in some foreign land.

As Sharmin Bock told me, “This is something that occurs in America with American men exploiting American children and other Americans facilitating what it in essence is modern day slavery today.”


Female Pimps? Myth or Reality?

Here is another case in where the perpetrator was a woman. As I have mentioned before, traffickers can be anyone.

Latasha McFarland sentenced for child sex trafficking in St Louis County Court December 02, 2010 06:55 AM EST

A St Louis County Mom was sentenced yesterday to five years in Federal custody after a plea agreement on charges that she sold another woman’s daughter as a sex slave on the Internet. Latasha McFarland was said to have sobbed when the sentence was read. Her mother, who had accompanied her daughter to court, ran out of the courtroom hyperventilating

While our sobbing suspect, or should we now say crying convict was sentenced to five years in federal prison, she could have been given a longer sentence. However, in her plea agreement with prosecutors, the charge of trafficking a minor was dropped.

Sympathizers for Latasha McFarland are worried for her daughter. Of course the world worries about the fate of her own young daughter. Who wouldn’t, after all? Her kid did nothing wrong in all of this, as is usually the case. So, let’s all hope she goes into good hands, perhaps family, while Mom is busy making big rocks into little rocks for the next five years.

Even the family of Latasha McFarland’s victim expressed sympathy for her.

It appears that in light of the total situation, even the family of her victim claims to feel bad for her five year prison sentence. Most of us won’t, though. Her underage victim is still in treatment for the emotional and physical abuse of being sold as a sex slave, and even had to resort to going to Chicago, to get the treatment she needs. Now, let’s see the prosecuting attorney go after the customers of Latasha McFarland.

A letter from the Frederick Douglas Family Foundation

December 1, 2010

The Dangers of a Little Knowledge

Ask the 50 million or so U.S. students that have already attended the 6th grade, “Who freed the slaves in the United States” and most will proudly respond correctly, Abraham Lincoln. As one of the defining moments in U.S. history, the Abolition of slavery is a cornerstone of the American self-image as defenders of freedom. But the freedom of many, right here in these United States, is being threatened every day. Modern forms of slavery are alive and well and it may be our little bit of knowledge that keeps us from responding appropriately.

I wonder how many Americans, for instance, would answer true or false to the following statements:
There are Aliens living on Earth.
Ghosts live among us.

Slavery still exists.
First of all, the existence of Aliens and Ghosts has never been conclusively proven or disproven. With a preponderance of sightings, articles and TV shows, however, there’s enough reasonable doubt to make some people check true on statements 1 and 2. On the other hand, most adults, like those 50 million students, know only that Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves in 1800 something and slavery is over. No “reasonable doubt”, everyone knows slavery ended with the Emancipation Proclamation. No matter how ridiculous the analogy, I’m afraid number 3 would score the highest percentage of “false” answers.

What makes this scenario so scary is that it would be hard to find actual victims of either Aliens or Ghosts, whereas the victims of human trafficking are all around us. And, even though the evidence is in our faces, we’re unable to understand it because of that little piece of knowledge we possess. How can these headlines be true if I already know that no one can legally buy and sell people?

“Two N.Y. men charged with Human Trafficking”
“Brazilian Police Dismantle Human Trafficking Ring”
“Feds Break-up Human Trafficking Ring in Minnesota”

In fact, the buying and selling of people is the second most profitable illegal industry in the world today. Those that operate this industry rely on our ignorance in order to succeed. Which brings me back to those 50 million students.

The Frederick Douglass Family Foundation is working to create programs in schools to educate young people about human trafficking, modern-day slavery and the many forms of human exploitation happening right now in cities and towns in varying degrees all over the world. We do this not only to help students protect themselves from becoming victims of human trafficking but so they’ll grow-up being able to answer “True” to question number 3. Why is that important? Because, once the general public better understands the threat of human trafficking, we’ll be in a position to address it.

Recognizing December 2nd each year as the “International Day for the Abolition of Slavery” is a good start. The United Nations commemorates this day as a means of remembering the heroes that helped end institutionalized slavery around the world. We hope that this day also reminds people how millions around the world still suffer at the hands of “slave masters” in conditions as bad or worse than slaves endured in this country for hundreds of years.

In addition, we ask that you contact your local member of congress asking them to sponsor House Resolution 929. H. Res. 929 would have the House recognize the “International Day for the Abolition of Slavery” each year on December 2nd. In the Resolution, Congresswoman Richardson (D-CA) highlights the work of Frederick Douglass, other great Abolitionists and even the Frederick Douglass Family Foundation in addressing the issue of modern-day slavery.

Join us in commemorating the “International Day for the Abolition of Slavery” and add a little more knowledge and understanding to the fight to defend individual freedom.

December 2nd

President, Ken Morris, and I will be in San Francisco and Oakland, California on December 2nd speaking with children from Emilio Zapata Street Academy.

In Freedom,

Robert J. Benz
Executive Vice President
Frederick Douglass Family Foundation