Everything tribal judges need to know about human trafficking in Indian Country

Evidence suggests that human trafficking, a modern-day term for slavery that often involves forced sex work, is more prevalent among Native peoples than in the United States population as a whole.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Native women are overrepresented in prostitution and they face many of the common risk factors for trafficking, including prior sexual victimization, poverty and homelessness.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office reported that between 2014 and 2016, 27 of 132 tribal law enforcement agencies reported having initiated investigations involving human trafficking.

Yet as of July 2018, few tribes had prosecuted human trafficking cases and even fewer tribal judges had presided over such cases in their courtrooms.

To address the problem, the NJC has drafted the monograph “A Tribal Judge’s Role in Combating Human Trafficking in Indian Country,” which includes advice on warning signs tribal judges should look for that indicate human trafficking may be occurring. Read the full document here.

If a tribal judge suspects human trafficking:

Instruct court staff to provide a card with contact information for the National Human Trafficking Hotline to the suspected victim after court. If there are suspected traffickers in the courtroom, court staff should provide the card in a surreptitious manner.

The judge can also either contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline directly or have the court staff do so. The hotline has four options for reporting:

If the judge suspects that the victim is in immediate danger, the judge or the staff should call 911.

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