Human trafficking in the state of Michigan has become an ever growing problem, related to both labor and sexual exploitation. However, of all trafficking cases reported in 2015, sex trafficking was most prevalent in almost 85% of those reported. Regardless of the type of trafficking, Michigan has seen a year to year increase in the number of reported case. The state now has the second highest rates of sex trafficking in the country (only behind Nevada).
Most trafficking occurs in the metro-Detroit area and other cities around the state that host large scale events that are drawing thousands of non-Michiganders into the area. With an increase in demand for sex-workers there becomes an increase in supply. There is a large sentiment that increased penalties for purchasing a sex worker will act as an effective deterrent due to the fear of very real repercussions. In May 2015, the federal government signed into law legislation that would prosecute buyers of sex workers to the fullest extent of the law rather than a minor solicitation charge.
In 2013, Michigan’s Attorney General Bill Schuette and Governor Snyder created a Human Trafficking Commission to seek means to combat human trafficking in the state. This Commission worked with a number of experts knowledgeable on the subject of trafficking and it’s relevancy to Michigan. They developed a comprehensive legislative package, which was passed by the state legislature in 2014 and took effect in 2015. The current Human Trafficking Commission resides within the Department of Attorney General (DAG). Members are appointed by the governor from various fields in order to collaborate and find the best outcomes for combatting trafficking in Michigan. The mission of the Commission includes:
1. Identifying resources that would help provide funding for programs that would counter human trafficking.
2. Provide training and information regarding trafficking to law enforcement, legal actors, health care and social service providers, and any other individuals the Commission deems necessary. Also raise public awareness on these issues.
3. Review state information regarding trafficking statistics, as well as current resources available to trafficked individuals and agencies working within the government at local through federal levels that may be of assistance.
4. Collaborate with state legislators on how to improve current laws regarding trafficking.
The Attorney General was the first in the state to secure a conviction of a trafficker under Michigan’s recent legislation regarding human trafficking, and continues to work with the Commission, holding monthly meetings to discuss how to further eradicate the issue.
Although the eradication of human trafficking in the state has many advocates, there is still need to educate Michigan citizens on the atrocities inflicted on trafficked individuals. The Human Trafficking Commission’s legislative package created laws that strengthened safe harbor provisions, furthered the extent to which traffickers are held accountable, and established anti-human trafficking organizations under the DAG and within the Department of Community Health. In accordance with amendments to the Michigan Penal Code, someone that has purchased the services of a trafficked individual (a “john”) will now be placed on the sex offender registry. This is a critical step in ending trafficking overall because the state is working to increase penalties on not just the “pimps” but also the “johns,” which in accordance to the general theory of supply and demand will lead to a decrease in demand if people know they would face harsher consequences for their actions.
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"Human Trafficking Commission." Attorney General Bill Schutte. State of Michigan, Mar. 2016. .
"Human Trafficking: Slavery Still Exists." Michigan.gov. State of Michigan. .
"Human Trafficking Commission." Attorney General Bill Schutte. State of Michigan. .