Justice We Pursue

Early Intervention Prevents Human Trafficking

A couple of months ago, the Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center published a report entitled “Early Intervention to Avoid Sex Trading and Trafficking of Minnesota’s Female Youth: A Benefit-Cost Analysis.” MIWRC is a Minneapolis-based non-profit that provides gender- and culturally-based programs and services to educate and empower American Indian women and their families and communities. The insights presented in this new report touch on the complexities of human trafficking, which are important both for MIWRC’s work with American Indian communities and for what JRLC hopes to accomplish in the upcoming legislative session.

The Benefit-Cost Analysis was done in response to the Safe Harbor for Youth Act. This Minnesota law was passed in the summer of 2011 to begin the process of creating protective and responsive services for youth victimized by any form of sex trading. Full implementation of the act will not take place until 2014, in order to allow for preparatory work with law enforcement, service providers, and the judicial system.

The MIWRC Analysis suggests that, when it comes time to implement the Safe Harbor Act, creating an early intervention program for adolescent girls in hopes of preventing their involvement in sex trafficking will be the most effective use of taxpayer dollars. This approach, the report finds, results in a return on investment of about $34 for every one dollar spent. Investing in early intervention is better not only in that it might prevent some youth from becoming victims of sex trafficking but also in that it could save Minnesota taxpayers at least $58,229 over a 30-year span.

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Not only does sex trafficking take a physical and psychological toll on its victims, but its consequences are also costly for society. These consequences include poor health and mental health outcomes, experiences of violence and intimidation, homelessness, chemical dependency, unplanned pregnancy, involvement with criminal justice, decreased lifetime earning, welfare expenditures, and loss of human potential. Services to address these issues require taxpayer dollars which could be saved if the early intervention program recommended by MIWRC were put in place.

JRLC’s issue paper on human trafficking denounces this unacceptable modern form of slavery. “Jews, Muslims, and Christians alike believe that all people are created in the image of God and are blessed with God-given dignity. It is the duty of faith communities in Minnesota to stand up against traffickers who treat other human beings as objects to be bought and sold, and to advocate on behalf of those who have little power to defend their human rights.” This will be one of our major issues in the upcoming legislative session; JRLC advocates will urge their legislators to vote to designate sufficient resources for the implementation of the Safe Harbors Act. The MIWRC’s new research suggests that a significant proportion of those resources should go to creating effective structures for early intervention and the prevention of trafficking of vulnerable youth.

-Angela Butel, Intern

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