March 2016

This post was originally published on this site

 

By Briana Simmons, Research Assistant

The Non-abolition of Slavery

Recently, many prominent anti-trafficking organizations lauded the passage of a bill  closing a loophole that allowed the import of goods produced by forced labor.  None of them noted the irony that the US Constitution allows for such goods to be produced, sold, and consumed within its borders.

This hypocrisy is significant as the U.S. incarcerates more of its own people than any other nation in the world, exposing them to forced commercial labor within state and federal penitentiaries while banning the import of goods produced by convict labor abroad.

The 13th Amendment reads, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except for punishment of a crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, nor any place subject to their jurisdiction,” (emphasis added).  While this amendment allows for forced labor of prisoners, more recent federal law requires it.  According to federal trafficking legislation, obtaining a person by force for the purpose of involuntary servitude is labor trafficking– except for prisoners.

This glaring exception to the abolition of involuntary servitude has led to one company that earned $553 million in 2013 by using the labor of over 20,000 convicts according to its own numbers.  

While anti-trafficking organizations lament the outsourcing of jobs to parts of the world with exploitive labor conditions, they often fail to acknowledge how the high rates of incarceration in the U.S. creates an immense, involuntary domestic labor force earning little to no money in compensation for their labor.

History of US Prison Labor

Douglas Blackmon, author of Slavery by Another Name, has written extensively on the convict leasing system’s use of criminalization to create a labor force replacing chattel slavery. This system remained intact until the 1950s- about 85 years after the passage of the 13th Amendment in 1865.

Prior to mass incarceration, the convict leasing system thrived in the Southern region of the U.S. Small or invented infractions resulted in arrest and conviction. In order to pay off fines, a convict’s labor was contracted out to plantation owners and private companies where there were little to no labor protections, and some laborers were worked literally to death..

As in the era of convict leasing, modern prison populations are disproportionately black and brown. The Center for American Progress created a list of the top ten startling facts about people of color (POC) and the criminal justice system including that while POC make up about 30% of the U.S. population they represent about 60% of the prison population.

Prison Labor Today (and in Colorado)

In 1934, Federal Prison Industries, publically traded under the name UNICOR, began a federal inmate worker program for private prisons ostensibly in an effort to reduce recidivism.  This claim has not been substantiated by methodologically rigorous studies.

Today, many everyday products are manufactured in prisons, and a number of services are performed by inmates. Inmates manufacture furniture, law enforcement equipment, and license plates. Sprint and Verizon outsource telecommunications jobs to call centers in prisons. In 2013, Colorado Correctional Industries made $65 million in profit from its inmate-run fishery, vineyard, and goat farm.  

Even with goat farming skills, how is recidivism not a possibility with so many legal restrictions on the livelihoods of ex-offenders?  Requiring convicted felons to “check the box” for almost all job applications severely limits their job prospects. Furthermore, it denies them a number of licenses for specialized professions and makes them ineligible for public benefits such as food stamps and public housing.

In some cases, the labor of inmates is eerily reminiscent of centuries old plantations. Prison profiteers, who have a vested interest in prison expansion, are keenly aware of the multitude of advantages for companies and the government to outsource labor to prisons- even when it negatively impacts other small businesses who can’t compete with wages of  $0.23 to $1.15 per hour.  

Solutions

Human trafficking organizations must reallocate some of their policy efforts, resources, and awareness campaigns to forced labor within U.S. penitentiaries.  

Along with anti-trafficking movements, the general public also has the responsibility to reimagine the goals of incarceration. Countries such as Sweden and Norway have set a precedent of effective alternative prison systems.

The private companies that run these programs claim they reduce recidivism, though independent studies confirming this are lacking.  The onerous legal restrictions placed on ex-offenders upon their release aren’t conducive to full reintegration- which can’t be mitigated by a forced labor in prison. U.S. penitentiaries need to incorporate actual rehabilitation programs in three main areas: education, mental health counseling, and drug abuse, as well as reintegration programs.

If society really wants to talk about prison reform, urgent attention must be redirected to the 13th Amendment as it is the defining piece of legislation allowing forced labor in the U.S. and its jurisdictions.

*The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect the position of the HTC

 

Note: The first annual Prisoners Justice: Reimagining Punishment in America will be held at the University of Denver April 1-2, 2016.

Image via joedylehigh.


About the Human Trafficking Center

The Human Trafficking Center, housed in the University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies, is the only two-year, graduate-level, professional-training degree in human trafficking in the United States. One way graduate students contribute to the study of human trafficking is by publishing research-based blogs. The HTC was founded in 2002 to apply sound research and reliable methodology to the field of human trafficking research and advocacy.

Founded in 1964, the Josef Korbel School of International Studies is one of the world’s leading schools for the study of international relations. The School offers degree programs in international affairs and is named in honor of its founder and first dean, Josef Korbel.

 

Note: There is a print link embedded within this post, please visit this post to print it.


This post was originally published on this site

Post Summary: 

Children in Sierra Leone spent nine months out of school during the Ebola outbreak. When they returned, they did so with fear of the disease and coping with the loss of loved ones. Still, it was a day of hope and celebration.

See how World Vision continues to support the long-term recovery of children in Sierra Leone after Ebola, and experience their bittersweet return to school through their eyes.

Eleven-year-old Millicent describes April 14, 2015 as “the best day of my life.”

That’s the day that schools officially reopened in Sierra Leone after a nine-month closure to help contain the spread of Ebola. The deadly virus claimed 3,955 lives across Sierra Leone, including 945 children. But last April, school bells rang again and children’s laughter could be heard on playgrounds across the country.

Category: 






This post was originally published on this site

Post Summary: 

“When we join in with others, hope rises from ashes and the beauty of God’s Kingdom intensifies.”

A Good Friday reflection from blogger Benjamin L. Corey: how Jesus was greater than the suffering in our world … and how we’re invited to follow in his footsteps.

As someone who makes his living writing books and giving talks, I am well aware that all compelling stories are marked by a meaningful introduction and conclusion. How one introduces the story, and how one ends the story, has the ability to send a message that will reverberate long after the story is over.

Category: 



This post was originally published on this site

 

By Catie Fowler, Research Assistant

The Issue

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is a nation beset by civil conflict.  A multitude of armed groups vie for power in the eastern Kivu provinces of the country, waging guerilla-style warfare against the Congolese military and against each other.  These groups control the region, using their power to intimidate and suppress the Congolese people into slavery.  Women and children are abducted into lives as sex slaves or child soldiers or forced to work without pay in illegal mines to export a variety of precious minerals that help fund ongoing violence.

In the meantime, the most well-intentioned of US policies would only serve to harm the Congolese population.  Would-be sanctions imposed by the US Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) and Child Soldiers Protection Act (CSPA) threaten to remove aid to the country if it cannot improve its national human rights policy.  However, it is lack of infrastructure—and not willful neglect of the government—that keeps the DRC from improving on its human rights record.

Continued trafficking is fueled by two factors—ongoing ethnic violence and the illicit mineral trade.  Without an end to the conflict and a way to ensure that the DRC’s vast wealth of natural resource exports (approximately $139 billion per year) go to benefit the Congolese people, there is little chance of putting a stop to forced labor and other forms of slavery in the region.  Instead of sanctions, the DRC needs development and stability.

Background

The resource curse of the DRC has been ongoing since 1885, at the dawn of Belgian colonial rule under King Leopold, during which 10,000,000 Congolese were enslaved, tortured, or murdered over rubber exports for the burgeoning auto industry.  Since then, the DRC has been embroiled in two major conflicts: the First Congo War and the Second Congo War.  In both, fighting was internal and external as rebel factions and outside nation states vied for control over the DRC’s resource-rich Eastern provinces.  The second war was later named “The Great War of Africa” due to the immense amount of outside involvement in the fighting.  Although the Second Congo War formally ended over a decade ago, conditions of violence, informal warfare, and slavery remain very much the same today.

US Policy

The US has passed a series of policies since 2000 in order to discourage human trafficking worldwide.  The US Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) and Child Soldiers Protection Act (CSPA) attempt to halt various forms of slavery by sanctioning countries that do not adequately comply with their standards for trafficking prevention.  More specific to the DRC, Section 1502 of the US Dodd-Frank Act attempts to keep the DRC’s illicit mineral trade from funding ongoing conflict by encouraging US companies to be more transparent in their sourcing of minerals.  In some ways, this legislation has been a success.  Investigations of the Congo’s mines by multi-stakeholder teams have found a reduction in violence.  However, the law also has the potential to hurt the DRC if not implemented properly.  Rather than remaining in the DRC and establishing legitimate trade, companies might find it easier to move their business elsewhere.  In fact, when the legislation first passed, China bought 80% of the coltan reserves in Brazil, a preemptive move to ensure they would no longer need to rely on the DRC.

Well-intentioned though these laws might be, they attempt to incentivize the DRC to make improvements through fear, rather than ensuring that such improvements are possible.  In fact, it seems that sanctions would harm the DRC instead of helping it.  As an already indebted and impoverished country, the DRC lacks the power to enforce the model for human rights set by the TVPA and CSPA.  In 2012, President Obama recognized this by partially waiving the sanctions the CSPA would have required against the Congolese military.  It was not the first time for President Obama to waive such sanctions; he has also waived the CSPA sanctions for Libya, South Sudan, and Yemen in their entirety, as well as the TVPA sanctions for a multitude of others.

Recommendations

Instead of placing sanctions on the DRC, the US should take a development-centered approach.  The construction of more and improved roads would eliminate the leading cause of death in the DRC, malaria, due to poor healthcare access.  It would force armed groups into the open and allow better monitoring of the eastern part of the country.  In that same vein, the Dodd-Frank Act should include provisions for enforcement and that incentivize US companies to invest in mining regions in which they are already doing business.  This would ensure that illicit mines in the DRC could be transformed into legal businesses, bringing profits into the country and to the civilian population.

Which strategies show promise for improving human rights?  Aid instead of  punishment and better labor protections instead of boycotts.  The US should examine its policy of sanctioning and determine not only if it is the best policy for the DRC, but the best policy to end trafficking across the globe.

Image via Responsible Sourcing Network. Use of their image does not indicate endorsement of the views expressed in this blog.


About the Human Trafficking Center

The Human Trafficking Center, housed in the University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies, is the only two-year, graduate-level, professional-training degree in human trafficking in the United States. One way graduate students contribute to the study of human trafficking is by publishing research-based blogs. The HTC was founded in 2002 to apply sound research and reliable methodology to the field of human trafficking research and advocacy.

Founded in 1964, the Josef Korbel School of International Studies is one of the world’s leading schools for the study of international relations. The School offers degree programs in international affairs and is named in honor of its founder and first dean, Josef Korbel.

 

Note: There is a print link embedded within this post, please visit this post to print it.




This post was originally published on this site

Prosecutors in Thailand called their first witnesses Tuesday in a major human trafficking trial with 92 defendants, including an army general, implicated in smuggling, kidnappings and the deaths of dozens of people.