Connect with us

#NNPA BlackPress

Discussion Spotlights Vagaries of the Criminal Justice System and Media Complicity

NNPA NEWSWIRE — On a recent afternoon, a distinguished group of panelists spent almost two hours in a conversation exploring the Central Park Five case, the public furor, the effects on the defendants and particularly, the role local and nation media played in creating and driving the narrative. The panelists were participating in a monthly series called “What’s the Story? Criminal Justice and Local News” hosted by The Marshall Project. The discussions feature prominent Americans looking at how to create and disrupt narratives around criminal justice. The series is sponsored by the Public Welfare Foundation.

Published

on

On a recent afternoon, a distinguished group of panelists spent almost two hours in a conversation exploring the Central Park Five case, the public furor, the effects on the defendants and particularly, the role local and nation media played in creating and driving the narrative. The panelists were participating in a monthly series called “What’s the Story? Criminal Justice and Local News” hosted by The Marshall Project. The discussions feature prominent Americans looking at how to create and disrupt narratives around criminal justice. The series is sponsored by the Public Welfare Foundation.

By Barrington M. Salmon, NNPA Newswire Contributing Writer
@bsalmondc

Ava DuVernay’s searing and powerful Netflix miniseries “When They See Us” has reignited a often rancorous debate about criminal justice, its deeply exploitative nature, the embedded systemic racism and who’s most affected.

As more than 25 million people watched the four-part series recently, America’s penal system came under intense scrutiny from supporters of the penal status quo, those seeking radical reform, and a growing number of critics who’re calling for abolition of the entire system.

On a recent afternoon, a distinguished group of panelists spent almost two hours in a conversation exploring the Central Park Five case, the public furor, the effects on the defendants and particularly, the role local and nation media played in creating and driving the narrative. The panelists were participating in a monthly series called “What’s the Story? Criminal Justice and Local News” hosted by The Marshall Project. The discussions feature prominent Americans looking at how to create and disrupt narratives around criminal justice. The series is sponsored by the Public Welfare Foundation.

In 1989, Yusef Salaam, 15, Kevin Richardson, 14, Korey Wise, 16, Antron McCray 15, and 14-year-old Raymond Santana, Jr. were falsely convicted of the brutal rape and assault of Trisha Emili, a white investment banker. The boys spent between seven and almost 14 years in prison.

Salaam, one of the Exonerated Five and a panelist who discussed the media’s role in the notorious Central Park Five case, said bluntly during the question-and-answer section that the criminal justice system must be abolished. He comes from a unique perspective, having spent seven years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.

“The criminal justice system needs to be dismantled,” Salaam told a rapt audience at Google headquarters in downtown Washington, DC during the July 16 discussion. “The slave trade moved right into the criminal justice system which runs us down, jails us, kills us. The Central Park Five is one worm out of a can of worms … it definitely needs to be abolished.”

He is not alone.

All over the country, individuals, groups and organizations like Color of Change and BYP 100 Chicago are working for and demanding change; imagining a just, vociferously challenging the conventional wisdom around crime and punishment; organizing, mobilizing the public to vote for reformist district and state attorneys and voting out prosecutors like Anita Alvarez in Chicago and Robert McCullough, both who refused to prosecute the cops who killed Lauan McDonald in Chicago and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

What was soon very clear is what is already known: that the vast majority of the 2.3 million people entangled in the criminal justice system are Black and brown people and increasing numbers of non-white children and Black women. Although the United States comprises less than 5 percent of the world’s population, it has the dubious distinction of having 25 percent of the world’s people behind bars, well ahead of China, India and Russia. In addition, about 7 million formerly incarcerated individuals are under the control the prison system whether it’s probation, parole or some form of monitoring and surveillance.

The miniseries – which recently received 16 Emmy nominations – details the harrowing experience of these young boys’ childhoods which was snatched by an over-zealous district attorney, police investigators who played hard and fast with the rules and a relentless criminal justice system which has and continues to swallow up Black girls, boys, men and women. Spurred on by District Attorney Linda Fair stein, cops subjected the boys to between 14 and 30 hours of interrogation, pressure and manipulation, eventually coercing confessions from them. They were eventually exonerated for the crime in 2002 when Matias Reyes, a serial rapist, confessed and DNA evidence taken from the victim confirmed he was the assailant. The charges were completely vacated and in 2014, the five men were awarded $41 million from the city although city officials never admitted culpability.

“It was tremendously dangerous, devastating and overwhelming at the same time,” Salaam recalled. “400-plus articles were written in the first two weeks. I remember seeing video. Our innocence got little or no attention. It was a whisper. I remember hearing my mother ask if the rats could hear.”

“The damage was done to us. They pulled the fabric and left gaping holes.”

LynNell Hancock, a former New York Daily News reporter, said she feels mortified when she recalls what transpired.

“It’s really hard to see,” she said after watching a clip showing the skewed racist coverage and bloodlust on television and in the newspapers. “I feel overwhelmed with shame. Every time I see it, I wonder what it felt like for Yusef and his family.”

Hancock, director of the Spencer Fellowship for Education Journalism, a program that supports the work of mid-career journalists to study at Columbia and produce significant works of journalism on education topics, said she was transitioning from the Village Voice to the Daily News when the story broke and watched as editors and reporters competed to be a part of what became a huge story.

“Going to the Daily News was like going to another planet,” she recalled. “The Village Voice was a writer-driven newspaper. The Daily News was a hothouse with a lot of competitive, mostly white men, a lot of great reporters and intelligence. It was an editor-driven paper, very controlled from the top and they decided early one to embrace the narrative of the police.”

Salaam, a motivational speaker, activist and educator, said the detectives who investigated the rape and beating of the jogger made sure that he and the other four were set up to take the fall in a case that riveted and angered New York City’s primarily white residents.

“… Our only crime was that we were born Black and brown. In the US we are expendable and are supposed to be at the bottom. They abolished slavery but they had a loophole – prison,” he said. “In our jury pool and the judge, the bias (towards us) was coming through the lens of the media and the police department. The Manhattan North detectives who interrogated had to have been on the force for at least 20 years to be in that unit. These were individuals who should have known better, should have done better.”

Despite signing confessions, Salaam said there were glaring inconsistencies as well as the absence of physical, forensic and DNA evidence which the current climate would have easily uncovered.

“All kinds of inconsistencies were there,” Salaam explained. “If we had social media then, it (the case) would have been blown out the water. Social media would have brought the inconsistencies out.”

Salaam said had no idea when he picked up by police officers that his life was about to change in irreversible and irreparable ways.

“My mother said she was born in the Jim Crow south and told me never to talk to cops, to let them kick the door down,” he said wit a wry smile. “(But) as a 15-year-old, I thought I was old enough to talk to the cops. I thought I’d be home before my mom got home. But I ended up spending seven years in prison.”

“Corey wasn’t on the list but he went with his buddy and ended up serving 13 years. Yet in the whole midst of things, he became the magic piece that freed us. I bumped into members of the original Black Panther Party and the Black Liberation Army. It informs how I teach children.”

Norris West, the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s director of Strategic Communications and a former journalist with the Baltimore Sun and Toledo Blade, said he has seen several instances of police chiefs and departments creating a negative narrative to paint all Black men as criminals.

“I grew up in Philadelphia and Chief (Frank) Rizzo weeded Black cops out of his force,” West recalled. “He made Black men strip naked in the street. There was a climate created and a narrative advanced. He stripped away their humanity before removing their clothing. It didn’t happen in a vacuum. The media plays a part in this.”

“The media often paints with a broad brush. And more often than not, white people have a different way of looking and writing about Black people.”

Hancock said she is troubled that no one seems to have learned from the egregious miscarriage of justice.

“I thought the exoneration would cause a tsunami all up and down the ranks of newspapers and police departments etc.,” said Hancock, a reporter and writer specializing in education and child and family policy issues, who has taught journalism at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism since 1993. “There has been no self-examination. I didn’t remember how young you guys were. It wasn’t primary but it should have been.”

“I know more about how false confessions happen.”

Hancock said as many as 40 percent of false confessions are from juveniles.

“You guys looked tall and looked like adults,” she said to Salaam. “Wilding had a life of its own in the media, in policy and academia. They began using kids’ names, there was the super-predator narrative and born out of this was a new breed of criminal juveniles and fear took over.”

Every single state in the country began passing draconian laws to imprison primarily Black children, trying teens and preteens as adults, Hancock said.

“Now, they know it’s been very damaging. It’s being rolled back but the damage is already done.”

#NNPA BlackPress

Jack Nicklaus Once Again Surprises Military Veterans with a Golf Lesson in Honor of Veterans Day and the PGA National Day of HOPE

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “The PGA of America reaches out to Veterans, they reach out to all different people,” explained Jack Nicklaus, who is the only sportsman and just the fourth person in history to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2005), the Congressional Gold Medal (2015) and the Lincoln Medal (2018). “It is a great organization. PGA HOPE is impactful on its own, but they also collaborate with other organizations, such as partnering with Folds of Honor for Patriot Golf Days.

Published

on

Jack Nicklaus coaches PGA HOPE Veteran, Homer Watts, during the Jack Nicklaus PGA HOPE Veterans Lessons at the Bear’s Club on November 7, 2022 in Jupiter, FL. (Photo by Sarah Kenney/PGA of America)
Jack Nicklaus coaches PGA HOPE Veteran, Homer Watts, during the Jack Nicklaus PGA HOPE Veterans Lessons at the Bear’s Club on November 7, 2022 in Jupiter, FL. (Photo by Sarah Kenney/PGA of America)

Special to NNPA Newswire

Imagine being invited to play a round of golf at Jack Nicklaus’ Florida home club and getting a surprise lesson from none other than the 18-time major champion himself.

For the third straight year, Nicklaus gave some hometown military heroes who participate in the South Florida PGA Section PGA HOPE (Helping Our Patriots Everywhere) program a memory for a lifetime at The Bear’s Club in Jupiter, Florida.

In celebration of both Veterans Day and the PGA National Day of HOPE, Nicklaus thanked the playing group of Veterans for their service and shared instructional tips, before inviting them out as his guests for a day on the championship golf course that he designed and is played regularly by up to 30 PGA TOUR pros who are members.

As the military pillar of PGA REACH, PGA HOPE is designed to introduce golf to Veterans and Active-Duty Military to enhance their physical, mental, social, and emotional well-being.

PGA REACH and PGA HOPE aspire to create a physically and emotionally healthier Veteran community through a six- to eight-week curriculum led by PGA Professionals trained in adaptive golf and military cultural competency.

U.S. Army Veteran First Lt. (Ret.) Robert Truckenmiller received a Purple Heart after being shot in the Vietnam War.

Other than hearing from other Veterans from time to time, he said that when he got a call from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) inviting him to take part in the PGA HOPE program, it was the first real “welcome home” feeling he ever received for his service.

“The PGA of America reaches out to Veterans, they reach out to all different people,” explained Nicklaus, who is the only sportsman and just the fourth person in history to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2005), the Congressional Gold Medal (2015) and the Lincoln Medal (2018).

“It is a great organization. PGA HOPE is impactful on its own, but they also collaborate with other organizations, such as partnering with Folds of Honor for Patriot Golf Days.

“I have great admiration and respect for the men and women who have served and sacrificed for our country’s freedom, and try to get behind efforts to help our Veterans, as well as their families. For me to do my little part—even to a small group—I am delighted to do so, especially for the PGA HOPE program.”

PGA HOPE has a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the VA, which enables Recreational Therapists to refer Veterans to PGA HOPE as a form of therapy.

Truckenmiller was quite surprised when Nicklaus stepped out on the driving range.

“I’m a little bit awestruck,” said Truckenmiller.

“He’s probably the best golfer ever, and he was most gracious. He helped me with my putting, on lining my ball up, and to stop moving my head. He told me to stare at it when I hit it.

“I lost my wife of 54 years three months ago. This is a remedy for some of the loneliness.”

U.S. Air Force Sgt. (Ret.) Pamela Carter, of Wellington, Florida, lost her brother, Bruce, in the Vietnam War. He received the Congressional Medal of Honor posthumously, and the VA Medical Center in Miami is named after him.

When Nicklaus approached Pamela and gave her a lesson, she quickly reached in her pocket and handed him a challenge coin with her brother’s photo on it.

“I was just shocked he was here,” said Carter. “I stumbled on PGA HOPE and signed up for it. Meeting true war heroes who are now being respected puts a new spin on it. PGA HOPE reaches out and makes us feel welcome.”

U.S. Army/Air Force Reserves Sgt. (Ret.) Homer Watts Jr. had the thrill of a lifetime.

“Oh my goodness,” Watts said. “He’s a legend. It was a total shock. I was very surprised. PGA HOPE is such an amazing program. It gets people out of the hospital and into other activities. You meet great instructors who take their time with you. It’s almost like family. Actually, it’s just like family.”

Joining them for instruction and the round of golf was 2022 South Florida PGA Section Patriot Award recipient Jerry Impellittiere, PGA Director of Instruction at Monarch Country Club in Palm City.

Impellittiere originally learned the game from PGA Professionals at West Point Golf Course and now pays it forward by teaching two PGA HOPE Programs.

He is known as “The Collector,” as he collects donated golf clubs to give to Veterans for them to learn and play the game. Ironically, Impellittiere once played in a grouping with Nicklaus and Dave Stockton at the B.C. Open, two players renowned for their putting.

“I didn’t make the cut, but I led the PGA TOUR in putting stats that year,” said Impellittiere.

Nicklaus has a long-held fondness for the nation’s military and the incredible sacrifices made by service members.

“These people have earned the help of all Americans,” said Nicklaus. “I enjoy doing this. I want to be a part of it, especially if it makes a difference. I am very honored.”

This year, PGA HOPE aims to impact the lives of over 7,500 Veterans through its transformational program led by PGA Professionals, and has set a goal of 36,000 annually by 2026.

In its sixth year, PGA National Day of HOPE is a month-long campaign running through Veterans Day. The campaign celebrates our nation’s heroes who protect our freedom, while raising awareness and support for PGA HOPE.

To support the 2022 National Day of HOPE Campaign, please visit the Official Fundraising Page.

Continue Reading

#NNPA BlackPress

United Travel Credits Giving HBCU Golf Programs Wings, Expanding Range of Traditionally Underfunded Teams

NNPA NEWSWIRE — On Wednesday, some 23 years later, and on her 41st birthday, no less, Levister was at Memorial Park Golf Course to watch three of the players she coaches at Prairie View A&M University play in the pro-am at the Cadence Bank Houston Open. Christian Latham, who is working on his master’s degree in architecture, and seniors Rondarius Walters and Taylor Harvey, a member of the women’s team, would play with Phil Griffith, who is a vice president of operations for United Airlines’ Houston hub, and PGA TOUR pros Stewart Cink and Matthew NeSmith.

Published

on

Mesha Levister (second from left) was at Memorial Park Golf Course to watch three of the players she coaches at Prairie View A&M University play in the pro-am at the Cadence Bank Houston Open.
Mesha Levister (second from left) was at Memorial Park Golf Course to watch three of the players she coaches at Prairie View A&M University play in the pro-am at the Cadence Bank Houston Open.

By Helen Ross, PGA Tour, Special to NNPA Newswire

James Levister thought it would be a phase.

Sure, he was an avid golfer. A 4 handicap at his best, in fact.

But when he started his 3-year-old daughter, Mesha, playing golf, he figured she would eventually get tired of the game.

He was wrong, though. His daughter loved playing with her dad on weekends — she finally beat him when she was 16 and never lost again — and she thrived on the challenge of the game.

“It was our thing,” Mesha said. “I liked that it was hard, and I continued to play because it was hard. But for me, when I was small, it was about being with him and doing something different.”

She played four years of varsity golf and basketball at her Florida high school, got scholarship offers in both sports, and wanted to turn pro. Eventually, she had to choose between the two.

“I told my dad I would rather play golf because there are fewer people that look like me playing golf,” said Levister, who is African American. “I wanted to be a trendsetter…I felt like I had something to give in the game. I didn’t realize what it was back then as a little 17-year-old.”

On Wednesday, some 23 years later, and on her 41st birthday, no less, Levister was at Memorial Park Golf Course to watch three of the players she coaches at Prairie View A&M University play in the pro-am at the Cadence Bank Houston Open.

Christian Latham, who is working on his master’s degree in architecture, and seniors Rondarius Walters and Taylor Harvey, a member of the women’s team, would play with Phil Griffith, who is a vice president of operations for United Airlines’ Houston hub, and PGA TOUR pros Stewart Cink and Matthew NeSmith.

“I hope that they get an out-of-this-world experience that they may not have ever gotten — ever,” Levister said. “Or that it opens up their eyes to the maximum potential and drives them to be whatever they want to be.”

The pairing with Griffith is no accident. United Airlines, in partnership with the PGA TOUR, has earmarked more than $500,000 in grants to 55 golf teams at HBCUs like Prairie View.

Each school gets $10,000 in travel credits to bolster travel and recruiting budgets and potentially help more than 250 student-athletes compete in places that may have been out of reach.

United and the TOUR recently announced a multi-year extension of their official marketing relationship, extending the annual commitment to HBCUs through 2025.

Griffith also attended a clinic earlier this week in which golfers from another Houston-area HBCU, Texas Southern, worked with youngsters from the First Tee. He’s excited about the impact the grants are having.

“I’m very impressed with these kids and when I look at where I was back then, if you don’t know that something exists, yeah, it’s kind of hard for you to aspire for,” Griffith said. “And a lot of the things that these kids are doing today, I had no aspirations for because I just didn’t know.

“I think as we continue this program,” he added, “just opening their eyes and showing them valuable and effective ways of getting there, it’s going to be a lot of fun over the years. That’s what I’m hoping.”

All in it together

Levister coaches the men’s and women’s teams at Prairie View A&M, which is the second-oldest public university in Texas.

She’s also done double duty at North Carolina Central University (NCCU), as well as at Lincoln University in Jefferson, Missouri.

“It’s interesting to see the dynamic and be able to create a culture here of togetherness and make sure that everybody roots for everybody because we’re all one team,” Levister said.

Forging something of a non-traditional path is second nature to Levister. When the women’s team at her college in Florida disbanded, she was recruited by NCCU to play on its men’s team.

She played No.1 and was the team’s most valuable player as a freshman, also earning Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association Rookie of the Year honors.

After 9/11, Levister left school and went home to Wash., D.C. She was the first African American to win the 2004 Virginia Women’s Amateur and was named the state’s female golfer of the year. She turned pro in 2006 and joined the Symetra Tour in 2010.

Life on the road could be lonely, though, particularly for a young woman who was often the only African American entered in an event.

“I’m still a golfer, regardless,” Levister said firmly. And she can’t shake the memory of being pulled over by a policeman in New York.

“The cop came over and asked the other tour player that was in the car, who was a white female, instead of asking the normal stuff, he asked the young lady that was in the passenger seat, ‘Are you OK?’” Levister said.

“So, for me that was a little bit of a traumatic experience…But he let me go. So, he really pulled me over just to check on the person in the car.”

After Levister’s father died in 2014, she decided to quit the tour.

She still competed, winning the 2015 EP Pro Women’s Championship, but began to focus on teaching. She joined the staff at NCCU in 2020 and helped start the women’s program before heading to Prairie View A&M.

She’s only been there about a month, but she already feels accepted by her players, who share her goal of returning the Panthers to dominance in the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

And she wants to make it easier for others to follow her path.

“I am definitely all about how I take on life now,” Levister said. “I just want to be a good person, do the right thing and break glass ceilings for the next people behind me so they don’t have it as hard as I did.”

Keeping the program alive

When Prairie View A&M lost its golf coach last fall, Latham had just graduated magna cum laude, finishing his architecture degree in three years, and started working on his master’s.

But the team needed a coach, and Latham stepped up in a big way. “He really held the fort down last year for both of the teams,” Levister said.

Like Levister, Latham was a multi-sport athlete who started playing golf because of his dad. But his favorite sport was baseball — his grandfather Cliff Johnson played 20 years in the major leagues, including two World Series with the New York Yankees.

By the time Latham got to high school, though, he had become disillusioned with baseball. He endured racist taunts, many times from the adults and coaches who flat-out lied to him.

“I lost my passion for baseball,” he said. “I didn’t even want to play anymore. So that’s what really got me stuck into golf because it’s like at the end of the day, no one can else say anything about me as long as I’m shooting a score I need to shoot.

“So that’s how I really got into it. And I just focus on golf only now. That’s what brought me.”

The summer before he entered high school in Katy, Texas, a Houston suburb, Latham spent every day at the golf course.

He shot 111 in his first tournament, but by the end of the summer, he broke 80 for the first time.

With continued improvement, he began to think about playing in college and verbally committed to Prairie View A&M after his sophomore year.

In addition to studying for his master’s, where he’s designing a practice facility for the golf team as a class project, and hitting balls on the range, Latham is getting hands-on experience by working at an architecture firm several days a week.

He also has a 14-month-old son named Kai — who is full of “joy and happiness,” Latham said — half the week.

“He’s like my little twin,” Latham said. “So now I got him a plastic set of golf clubs and seeing him wanting to play with that is pretty cool.”

Just because he’s working on his master’s degree doesn’t mean Latham is giving up on his dream to play golf professionally, though.

He’s already played in one APGA event and hopes to play well enough this year to finish in the top five of its collegiate rankings, which would give him scholarship access to the tour’s events through the remainder of the 2023 season.

“I’m not going to just stop that goal and stop that dream,” he said.

“I’m going to still work hard this semester to try to get to that level or continue to just add on to where I should be.”

Giving players wings

With the travel credits provided by United, schools like Prairie View A&M will be able to compete in higher profile events that might otherwise seem out of reach — quite literally.

Levister, who once rode 11 hours from Durham, N.C. to Port St. Lucie, Florida, for a college tournament, has already started putting those credits to work.

“Even in the short time that I’ve been here, it’s saved us a tremendous amount of time and money just to be able to have access to go over to Houston Airport and to fly,” she said.

“Just to reduce costs of travel helps tremendously because now we can use those funds to give them a better experience as a student-athlete and a college golfer.”

Latham remembers a 15-hour bus ride from Houston to Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, where the Panthers played in — and won — the 2021 PGA Works Championship at TPC Sawgrass.

With two travel days each way and the tournament itself, the Black Panthers were gone nine days.

That’s why on Wednesday Latham planned to thank Griffith for United’s support. That United and organizations like the PGA TOUR are seeing value in HBCU golf has been a big help.

“I want to say it makes us feel more comfortable when we’re not having to travel,” Latham said, “cramped up for 14 hours, 16 hours, when we could just make a two-hour plane ride. And it makes an impact on the team.”

“I mean, we’ve had times to where people didn’t even have enough seats on the bus,” he continued, “and we’re just kind of all locked up or having to make multiple trips to get somewhere because we don’t have enough room to bring everybody.”

“So, it means a lot. Gives us the opportunity to try to feel more like a sports program because we see other sports programs get to travel like that. And we never necessarily got to.”

Continue Reading

#NNPA BlackPress

Holiday Season Routinely Sees Rise in Human Trafficking

The number of persons convicted of a federal human trafficking offense increased from 2011 (464 persons) to 2019 (837 persons) before falling in 2020 (658 persons). Of the 1,169 defendants charged in U.S. district court with human trafficking offenses in the fiscal year 2020 — 92% were male, 63% were white, 18% were black, 17% were Hispanic, 95% were U.S. citizens, and 66% had no prior convictions.

Published

on

If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline toll-free hotline, 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-888-373-7888 to speak with a specially trained Anti-Trafficking Hotline Advocate.
If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline toll-free hotline, 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-888-373-7888 to speak with a specially trained Anti-Trafficking Hotline Advocate.

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire

Federal prosecutors said the fight against human trafficking, a crime that harms some of the most vulnerable members of society, counts among their highest priorities.

“We are committed to vindicating the rights of human trafficking crime victims by bringing their traffickers to justice and working to ensure that survivors have access to restitution, services, and assistance that are needed to rebuild their lives,” U.S. Attorney Roger B. Handberg said in a statement.

U.S. Department of Justice officials maintain that their strong efforts continue to combat human trafficking.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Attorney General released the Department of Justice’s National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking.

The strategy laid out the Department’s multi-year plan to combat all forms of human trafficking, focusing on efforts to protect victims of trafficking, prosecute human trafficking cases, and prevent further acts of human trafficking.

The Human Trafficking Institute estimates that there are 24.9 million victims of human trafficking globally.

In 2020, the Institute reported that federal courts in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and 4 U.S. territories handled 579 active human trafficking prosecutions, 94% of which were sex trafficking cases and 6% forced labor cases.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, individuals prosecuted for human trafficking increased from 729 in 2011 to 1,343 in 2020, an 84% rise.

The number of persons convicted of a federal human trafficking offense increased from 2011 (464 persons) to 2019 (837 persons) before falling in 2020 (658 persons). Of the 1,169 defendants charged in U.S. district court with human trafficking offenses in the fiscal year 2020 — 92% were male, 63% were white, 18% were black, 17% were Hispanic, 95% were U.S. citizens, and 66% had no prior convictions.

By the end of 2020, for the 47 states that reported data, 1,564 persons were in the custody of a state prison serving a sentence for a human trafficking offense.

The District of Columbia reported zero new criminal human trafficking cases filed in federal courts in 2021.

The advocacy organization Hope for Justice defines human trafficking as modern slavery, where one person controls another for profit by exploiting a vulnerability.

Victims usually are forced to work or are sexually exploited, and the trafficker keeps all or nearly all the money. The control can be physical, financial, or psychological.

ChildWelfare.com says the legal definition of trafficking involves “the exploitation of people through force, coercion, threat, and deception and includes human rights abuses such as debt bondage, deprivation of liberty, and lack of control over freedom and labor.”

The organization noted that trafficking could be for purposes of sexual exploitation or labor exploitation.

In 2004, officials formed the D.C. Human Trafficking Task Force to increase the prosecution of traffickers while identifying and serving the victims.

The task force’s primary goal is to “facilitate a more coordinated anti-trafficking effort in the D.C. area through protocol development, extensive community outreach, proactive investigations, law enforcement training, intelligence sharing, and more formalized partnerships between law enforcement organizations and non-governmental organizations.”

Additionally, while the holiday season counts as a time of joy, happiness, and fun, the nonprofit Shero Foundation said for human trafficking victims, the holidays are no different from any other day.

Law enforcement officials said traffickers typically increase their illegal activities during the holiday season.

“We let our guard down because you’re supposed to be joyful, and, you know, it’s a great time of year. And unfortunately, we have people out there that don’t care what time of year it is,” Tony Mancuso, a sheriff in Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana, told reporters in a pre-Christmas interview in 2021.

“California is home to some of the largest hubs for sex and labor trafficking in the United States, and it is beyond the time our state takes the necessary steps in combatting this criminal enterprise,” Democratic Assemblymember Tim Grayson insisted.

Grayson noted that human trafficking was a $150 billion-a-year global industry and introduced a bill to establish the California Multidisciplinary Alliance to Stop Trafficking Act (California MAST).

The bill aims to examine and evaluate existing programs and outreach for survivors and victims of human trafficking and provide recommendations to strengthen California’s response to supporting survivors and holding offenders accountable.

“In my search for a better life, I found myself exploited by various individuals similar to other child trafficking survivors,” said Jimmy Lopez, survivor advocate for the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking. “Human trafficking is an invisible crisis plaguing our state and forcing thousands of children to grow up too fast; we must stop trafficking in its tracks, and we must hold offenders accountable,” Lopez said.

If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline toll-free hotline, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-373-7888 to speak with a specially trained Anti-Trafficking Hotline Advocate.

Support is provided in more than 200 languages. Hotline officials said they are there to listen and connect those in need with the help required to stay safe. Callers can dial 711 to access the Hotline using TTY.

You can also email help@humantraffickinghotline.org.

To report a potential human trafficking situation, call the hotline at 1-888-373-7888, or submit a tip online here.

All communication with the hotline is strictly confidential.

Continue Reading

Subscribe to receive news and updates from the Oakland Post

* indicates required

CHECK OUT THE LATEST ISSUE OF THE OAKLAND POST

ADVERTISEMENT

WORK FROM HOME

Home-based business with potential monthly income of $10K+ per month. A proven training system and website provided to maximize business effectiveness. Perfect job to earn side and primary income. Contact Lynne for more details: Lynne4npusa@gmail.com 800-334-0540

Facebook

Trending