Trafficking, Incarceration, & Survival: How the Criminal Legal System Harms Victims

« Return to search


Hear survivors of forced criminality discuss their experiences within the labor trafficking paradigm. This webinar will increase your understanding of why victims stay and what it looks like when an underlying criminal offense is a part of a victim’s exploitation. Listen to survivor experiences of the consequences of wrongful prosecution and play your part in creating a solution to a criminal legal system that does not fully recognize all victims.

Featuring Autumn Smith, Carolina De Los Rios, James Dold, Shamere McKenzie, Xavier McElrath-Bey.

0:57 – Framework introduction

2:20 – James Dold’s introduction

3:09 – Topic overview

3:28 – Intersection of child protection issues and reforms in the criminal system

4:28 – Learning objectives

4:40 – James’ experience with trafficking

5:40 – Historical background on our current criminal apparatus

8:19 – Overlapping factors between labor trafficking and forced criminality

9:10 – Gang memberships as a form of forced labor

11:08 – The overlap between sex trafficking and labor trafficking

13:50 – The evolution of our understanding of what labor trafficking is.

17:59 – Parallels between gang memberships in the US and child soldiers in other countries

22:48 – Xavier McElrath-Bey’s introduction

27:15 – Carolina de Los Rios’s Introduction

28:17 – Autumn Smith’s introduction

29:08 – Shamere McKenzie’s introduction

30:27 – Question: why do service providers and law enforcement have a hard time understanding that forced criminality is a common experience of victims of labor trafficking? What can they do to better recognize survivors who have been forced to commit crimes?

31:08 – Shamere: It’s a very complex issue, and they don’t explore the other facets of the issue. Also, trafficking cases are new, and training is not specialized enough around forced criminality

34:50 – Xavier: Experience with the system biases and inability to understand victims’ realities

37:17 – Carolina: Expand our view of what trauma is and see that there are interlocking systems of oppression.

40:40 – Autumn: Consent and intent dynamics are complex when you can’t revoke participation without risk of great harm. The compartmentalization of those two terms challenges the legal system and law enforcement.

41:38 – Shamere: Vanita Carter’s story is an example of how racism is at the core of law enforcement.

43:33 – Question: What is it that makes people vulnerable to becoming victims of forced criminality?

44:30 – Xavier: His personal experience where his gang made him feel protected from a violent home and community.

53:54 – Carolina: Part of the responsibility we have is to make sure that we are making assessments that are free of bias. Be aware of your biases and how we can work on community healing. Be open to seeing this is a cycle repeated where the victim becomes the perpetrator.

57:19 – Autumn: Vulnerabilities that are risk factors include substance misuse, lack of basic needs, historical trauma, and damage in nuclear families. People’s strengths are used again to manipulate and control criminality.

58:24 – Shamere: Traffickers use anything specific to that person to create fear. A trauma brain doesn’t magically disappear at 18, so this affects adults too.

1:01:02 – Question: What are the power dynamics between victims and traffickers? How does this connect to trauma bonding?

1:01:54 – Autumn: Trauma bonds with other victims and with the trafficker. Trauma bonding effects don’t end when you stop being victimized.

1:02:51 – Xavier: His experience of feeling alone when he left his gang. Bonding has to be overcome for the sake of survival, but it’s hard to step away from the only thing that gives you love.

1:06:46 – What recommendations do you have for service providers to better identify victims forced to commit crimes?

1:07:35 – Shamere: The perfect victim doesn’t fit everyone’s situation. We need to be a society of second chances, especially for those who never had a first.

1:11:57 – Autumn: Robust lateral, safe, and informed programs need to be available for the first response.

1:13:30 – Xavier: the US is the only country in the world that sentences children to life in prison.

No Child is Born Bad TED talk:

1:16:55 – Q&A. What training around forced criminality would you suggest?

1:18:10 – Q&A: what if survivors don’t believe in those legal reliefs?

1:21:00 – James: Intersectionality and the need to build connections in different circles as a service provider

1:22:26 – Q&A: How do you deal with federal charges to which there are no post-conviction relief and law enforcement doesn’t recognize these things as a form of human trafficking?

1:26:39 – Xavier’s experience with forgiveness

Review the Event Takeaways Sheet here.

Topic(s): Survivor Experiences, U.S. Citizens
Resource Type: Event Recording
Date: July 20, 2022