Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking- Amanie Musa

Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking

            Sex trafficking is often described as a modern day slavery, where individuals are coerced or forced to perform commercial sex. In the case of minors under the age of 18, any engagement in commercial sex is considered to be human trafficking, regardless of coercion.
            With today’s advancements, many people are aware of the crisis that is human trafficking. However, many do not realize the overwhelming fact of the matter that our youth are becoming the most vulnerable group of this phenomenon being referred to as Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking (DMST). In an article “Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking in the United States,” Kimberly Kotrla describes those at highest risks for becoming victims of DMST, as well as why this terrifying issue remains prevalent in our society.
            Like any other issue in our society, lawmakers soon realized the importance of creating legal ramifications for these crimes through legislation such as The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (VTVPA). Most experts suggest “there are currently at least 100,000 DMST victims in the United States (estes & weiner, 2002; Smith, 2008), with up to 325,000 more at risk for becoming such victims (estes & weiner, 2002; Hughes, 2007; U.S. Department of Justice, 2007a).” This idea of the overwhelming number of victims at risk, stems from the fact that research shows that there majority of women involved in prostitution were introduced to the commercial sex industry before reaching the age of 18. It is often easy to blame victims for this path they seemingly chose to embark on. However, according to research, the culture in which we live may be partially responsible for the way the sex trafficking industry thrives. In countries with major commercial sex markets, such as the United States, there is a “culture of tolerance,” molded by this demand to maintain the way we glamourize prostitution and pimping. At a very young age, our children internalize this fact and in turn fall victim to the risk factors that lead to DMST.
            Unsurprisingly, this overwhelming experience often has significant psychological and traumatic effects on the child. In many cases, the trafficker is related to the victim allowing them advantages such as shelter, money, and food. These “rewards” create a sense of belonging that many victims may have lacked in the childhood previously. In order to understand the depth of these psychological issues, it is important to understand the child’s perception of their identity as a victim. Those that can identify their trafficker as a perpetrator were less susceptible to trauma and depression.


Gozdziak, E., Bump, M., Duncan, J., MacDonnell, M., & Loiselle, M. B. (2006). The trafficked child: trauma and resilience. Forced Migration Review, (25), 14-15.

Kaplan, D., & Kemp, K. (2015). Domestic minor sex trafficking: An emerging health crisis. Brown University Child & Adolescent Behavior Letter, 31(7), 1-6.


Sunday, February 21, 2016

Marc Szczepaniak- Blog post Justice Issue- Structured Settlements

The injustice issue of the selling of structured settlement is a very unique injustice because it arises only after a judicial remedy has seemingly solved a related issue of injustice.  Baltimore, like many other cities in America, had many homes built in the early part of the 20th century and lead paint was often used in these houses before the devastating cognitive effects of lead were fully recognized. Many of the children who suffered cognitive damage as a result were able to find a remedy to this injustice through the court system.  In civil suits of landlords, victims of lead paint poisoning are often rewarded six-figure settlements. To pay out these settlements, instead of a lump sum of cash, insurance companies use structured settlements to pay out monthly payments across many decades to prevent vulnerable recipients from spending all the money at once.
These monthly-cash flow payments have created the secondary market where the injustice occurs in which private companies buy the rights to the payments from the lead paint victims by paying them only a fraction of the face-value in a lump sum payment. Lead paint victims are often easy targets for these companies  as they are often cognitively impaired and struggle to read or live alone but not cognitively impaired enough to be considered unable to make their own decisions by the court system. These businesses have become experts in circumventing the lax regulations that currently govern these secondary transactions. They often “venue shop” by choosing judges in certain jurisdictions more likely to allow the contracts to go through and they hire the same “independent advisers” to review the contracts for the lead paint victims which calls into question their objectivity.
This is a justice issue for several reasons.  As we’ve discussed in class justice is a complex idea to define and includes several properties demonstrated in this case. Overall, the most compelling reason this is a justice issue is because it is a problem that only arises after the state has already tried to solve another injustice. In providing lead paint victims with this compensation, the state has succeeded in fulfilling many attributes associated with justice: compensation, prevention and deterrence. By making such a strong statement in support of victims, landlords know they will be liable for providing unsafe living conditions. However, these cases certainly demonstrate the idea that justice is a process not a result. Although the original result of a successful ruling in favor of the victims appears to provide justice, weak enforcement on the selling of structured settlements shows lead paint victims still suffer injustice in the legal system. Although the landlords are held responsible for their malfeasance, the work of these private companies that buy structured settlements undermine the justice process and deprive victims of the compensation they deserve.
To provide justice for this issue, the regulations surrounding the selling of structured settlements must be strengthened. In Maryland, the Structured Settlement Protection Act was passed in 2000 and requires a structured settlement to seek the counsel of an independent legal adviser and have the deal approved by a judge. As noted above, companies can easily circumvent these protections by always going to judges who give favorable rulings and continually using the same independent advisers to work with the lead paint victims. To resolve these issues, Maryland can strengthen its laws like other states which require the cases to be heard in the jurisdiction that the transaction occurs in so companies could no longer “venue shop” for friendlier judges in remote jurisdictions.  The requirements of what makes someone an “independent adviser” should also be strengthened. Currently, the advising process can be a phone call of less than a minute in which lawyers contacted by the company buying the structured settlement explain in broad strokes what the transaction means. The law should be reformed to include an in-person meeting and advisers should no longer be able to have such close ties to the companies seeking to buy the settlements.

To encourage the actions needed, students can support the passage of HB 535(cross filed in the Senate as SB 734) in the Maryland House of Delegates, which has a hearing on February the 25th. The senate bill hearing is on March 3rd.  The bill is supported by the Speaker of the House, President of the Senate and the Maryland Attorney General. This law would mandate the cases be heard in the jurisdiction where the claim originated and grants the Attorney General power to adopt and enforce stricter regulations on the industry. To support the bill’s passage, students can email and/or call members of the Senate Judicial Proceedings committee and House Judiciary committee to tell them they support the legislation. The members of each committee, with their contact info, can be found below