JBA Special Needs of Children Committee Chair, Jodi Seitlin
If you thought slavery in the United States was long gone, we’re sorry to report that you are wrong. While state-sanctioned slavery was abolished with the passing of the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865, slavery lives on even today, even in Jacksonville, Florida. It is fueled on the one hand by human greed and on the other, by sick, carnal desires. Slavery has morphed and taken on a new name “human trafficking” and our children are the targets.
Here are some of the sobering facts which support why you should care. Human Trafficking is extremely profitable and by some estimates, amounts to a $32 billion a year industry. There are 27 million people enslaved around the world, 80% of whom are women and children. The slaves are sexually exploited or forced to work long hours in the most inhumane conditions, with minimal or no pay. One child can make a human trafficker between $200,000 and $750,000 per year. Human trafficking is the number one crime in the world. What’s more . . . this crime is barely on the radar.
This is a global problem; yet the crime of child trafficking is also present in our backyard. It is surprising to most to learn that the most powerful country in the world, the United States, is not immune from this modern-day slavery. An estimated 500,000 of our U.S. citizen-children are trafficked each year. In Jacksonville, in October 2008 a criminal by the name of Marvin Madkins was convicted under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA). It was passed within the past decade and is the first law of its kind in the world. It focuses on the 3-Ps - Protection of the victim, Prevention of the crime and of course, Prosecution of the criminal. Madkins sold 13 and 14 year-old girls, whom he transported from Virginia to Florida, in local hotels in which you or I would stay on a family vacation. Why did it take so long for this crime to be detected? The girls were so-called “throw away kids.”
The singular prosecution of Madkins is not representative of the scope of the problem. As members of the NE Florida Human Trafficking Task Force, we believe that this problem goes largely unnoticed because it requires us to look beneath the surface. Victims are either local or from another city in the U.S. and are moved so frequently that time truly is of the essence. Perhaps you learned that during the 2010 Super Bowl, teenage and preteen girls from all over the U.S. - many from Northeast Florida - were literally trucked or flown to Miami and forced to prostitute out of vans, campers and motel rooms run by their captor/traffickers.
Each of us has the ability to help be on the lookout. Effective intervention can take many forms and can come from each of us: attorneys, educators, medical professionals, the volunteer community, the faith community, the social services folks, moms, dads. Every child, no matter what their situation, deserves freedom from being coerced to sell their bodies, work in inhumane conditions and otherwise be enslaved.
The Special Needs of Children Committee of the Jacksonville Bar Association is taking a leadership role in raising awareness of this difficult but crucially important issue in Northeast Florida by hosting a symposium on May 5 on “Child Exploitation and Sex Trafficking: Finding Local Solutions” at The Aetna Building, 841 Prudential Dr., Jacksonville. Preeminent experts in law enforcement, medical intervention, coercion through the Internet, juvenile immigration, victimology, recovery planning and services, and more will educate, advocate, and motivate each of us to do what we can to address this horrible form of child abuse. Outside the classroom, learn about local and national resources available to you and to child trafficking victims to help eliminate child slavery in our community. Attendees can receive 7.5 General CLER including 7.5 State/Federal Govt. Administrative Practice, 7.5 City/Count/Local Govt., and 5.5 Criminal Trial Certification hours have been approved and lunch is included. FSU College of Social Work is sponsoring and has approved 7.5 CEUs for social workers. A $25 rate is available for students. For more information and to register, please log on to www.jaxbar.org and follow the links to the Special Needs of Children Committee’s May 5 CLE.
ITALICS- Crystal L. Freed, member of JBA and Florida Human Trafficking Task Force, contributed to this report.