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Human Trafficking Expert Speaks to KDOC Staff

by KDOC News — last modified Jan 11, 2017 04:24 PM
The Kansas Department of Corrections (KDOC) plays an integral part in the fight against human trafficking, according to an expert on the topic who addressed KDOC staff Tuesday in Topeka.
Human Trafficking Expert Speaks to KDOC Staff

Washburn University professor Sharon L. Sullivan addressed human trafficking in Kansas during a presentation at the KDOC Tuesday.

Sharon L. Sullivan, a professor at Washburn University and renowned speaker on human trafficking issues, provided statistics and perspective in a presentation titled “Human Trafficking: In our Backyard” at the KDOC Central Office.

The KDOC is one of several state agencies officially recognized by Gov. Sam Brownback when he proclaimed January Human Trafficking Awareness Month. Jeff Soukup of the KDOC's Office of Victim Services (OVS) invited Sullivan to help educate staff on how the agency can help fight human trafficking in Kansas.

“The agency can help in a number of ways, the most important being to equip people who are incarcerated who were involved in trafficking to be able to do something else for a living,” Sullivan said. “For a lot of people involved, they don’t have a lot of skills and might not know how to do anything else. When they leave prison, people tend to go back to what they know unless they are educated to do something else for a living.”

Sullivan said that the two primary forms of human trafficking in Kansas are in labor and sex trafficking. She said agriculture, food production (i.e. cattle feedlots and meat packing plants) and construction jobs can used forced laborers. She added that Kansas’ position in the national highway system is key. She called Wichita a particularly problematic crossroads and “destination city.”

Sullivan said Kansas has “good laws” governing human trafficking, but said that there is a lack of resources nationwide to really help people who want to get out of the industry.

“You (KDOC employees) see the damage every day that people do to each other,” Sullivan said. “But human trafficking can be very complex and sometimes we aren’t aware of what people have been through that might cause them to commit some other crime.”

“There are victims in the system that we haven’t identified as such, who need to have those issues addressed to keep them from slipping right back into the problem,” said OVS Program Specialist Holly Chavez. “Recognizing Human Trafficking Awareness Month and bringing a speaker like Dr. Sullivan helps to bring awareness to our staff of things we don’t always think about.”

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