Mariah is the Program Manager of End Slavery Now. Currently living in Cincinnati, Ohio, she graduated from the University of Cincinnati's DAAP program with a degree in Digital Design.
In December of 2014, we had the privilege of visiting and aftercare shelter called Open Door Foundation. Mirela is a lawyer for the foundation and is working on a variety of cases at all times. While talking about the inner workings of a trafficking case, she brought up that it is incredibly difficult to get a trafficking conviction; so, most prosecutors will avoid it. This challenge has major implications for the victims.
Since a trafficking charge is so hard to prove, most prosecutors will opt for bringing a pimping charge against the trafficker. A conviction on a pimping charge has the same amount of jail time and is an easier conviction. So, for the sake of getting the conviction, this route is often taken. However, the difference in outcomes for a victim is huge.
If the conviction was for trafficking, that would mean those harmed would be considered victims by everyone involved. But whenever the conviction is for pimping, that means those harmed were prostitutes. This framing could have dire consequences for one of Mirela's clients. For example, one of her clients was trafficked for two years, and during that time her husband divorced her. When she was rescued she fought to have custody of her children. Mirela knows that if her client's trafficker gets convicted of pimping this will likely mean that her client will not see her children again. The state will see her as a prostitute and deem her unfit to be a mother. If they choose to prosecute for trafficking, however, this victim would be seen as a victim and would have a much better chance of regaining custody of her children. So, while trafficking convictions are hard to get, Mirela believes that lawyers have to start trying for those convictions for the sake of the victims.
Whenever laws are made and indictments are carried out, lawyers must have the lives of the victims in mind. There is more at stake than a conviction rate.
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The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center will be hosting "Motel X," an interactive exhibition that aims to educate visitors about human and labor trafficking in the Cincinnati area, from Jan. 11th through Sept. 13th 2020. Plan a visit to Cincinnati, OH, USA to view this powerful exhibit.