News Round-up March 20th, 2015

Mayor Proposes Changes at Rikers Island:

  • Mayor de Blasio has introduced proposals to help reduce violence and eliminate smuggling at Rikers Island. Some of the proposals include: improving the security cameras, a computerized screening system, creating an inmate education program, and changing the policies for visitors. The proposal also includes plans to create a new inmate classification system and separate warring inmates and gang members.
  • Under the new visitor policy, visitor-inmate physical contact would be limited to a hug at the beginning and end of the visit. There will also be plexiglass partitions installed to separate inmates and visitors. The goal of this is to avoid the smuggling of contraband, which can lead to a reduction in violence because disputes among inmates often stem from the possession of contraband.
  • Critics of the Mayor’s proposal, including the Prisoners’ Rights Project at the Legal Aid Society, say that visitation is one of the only outlets inmates have to keep them sane in jails. Visitation during incarceration can often play a part in whether or not the inmate ends up back in jail after release.
  • The proposals will be presented to the Board of Correction in May and, if approved, will take effect in August.


Legislators Propose Common Core Test Opt-Out:

  • Legislators are proposing a bill that will allow parents to opt-out of common core curriculum tests. The bill, named the Common Core Parental Refusal Act, would require schools to inform parents of students in grades three through eight by mail, email or a letter sent home with the child that the child may refuse to take any of the standardized tests administered under the Common Core standards.
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Innovations in the Fight Against Human Trafficking: Perspectives and Proposals Open Source Innovation Development Session 3

Innovations in the Fight Against Human Trafficking: Perspectives and Proposals

Open Source Innovation Development Session

By: Rachel Searle


This breakout session involved discussion among some audience members about how immigration reform can help combat human trafficking. Immigration reform could be both beneficial and detrimental to trafficking in the United States. Some immigration visas are geared towards people who have learned skills and can work for high-paying companies. This makes it difficult for many people to immigrate into the US, especially with caps that have limited how many people can obtain certain work visas. Additionally, many companies have a limited time frame in when they can harvest and process produce for their products. In this time frame, it is difficult to find enough people so they hire outside the regulations of the Department of Labor. This hiring generally includes undocumented citizens and trafficked people.

Reforms, such as implementing a guest worker program, can sometimes make these issues worse. It could create an attitude of “come pick our fruit and leave.” Additionally, it could increase the number of people who are lured into trafficking situations. With the passing of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), it can be argued that the number of coyotes and the people falling prey to them have increased. With these points in mind, it could be argued that some reform could lead to increased issues in trafficking.

On the other hand, properly instituted immigration reform could help solve some issues in trafficking. If there is a better pathway to citizenship, it could lead to a better chance of other workers obtaining green cards.… <Read More>

News Round-up March 6th, 2015


New York’s Campus Sexual Assault Hotline:

  • In keeping with Governor Cuomo’s initiative to stop sexual assaults on college campuses, the New York State Police have created a 24 hour hotline to take reports of sexual assaults on college campuses. The hotline covers SUNY’s 64 campuses across New York State and the investigations will be handled by the State Police. In May 2015, the SUNY Implementation Task Force will have completed its new on-campus police training effort aimed at educating students, staff and faculty in sexual assault prevention and awareness.
  • The hotline is one aspect of Governor Cuomo’s “Enough is Enough” campaign. The other initiatives under this campaign include: adopting an affirmative standard of consent, amnesty for victims of sexual assault from being punished for alcohol or drug abuse, and the Sexual Assault Victims’ Bill of Rights, which included a list of resources to help victims. Currently this only applies to SUNY schools; however, Governor Cuomo has discussed introducing legislation to make this all apply to private institutions as well.

The number is (844) 845-7269.


Suicide Prevention for Veterans Law:

  • Last month, President Obama signed the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act into law. Clay Hunt, the law’s namesake, was a Marine Corps veteran who killed himself in 2011 after suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Hunt served in Iraq and Afghanistan and volunteered in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. While he tried to work through his struggles, he did not have access to adequate resources; the waiting list to see a psychiatrist was months long.
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Innovations In The Fight Against Human Trafficking: Considering Sex and Labor Trafficking Together– Open Source Innovation Development Session

By: Hayley Pine

During the Open Source Innovation Development portion of the Innovations in the Fight Against Human Trafficking symposium, a number of attendees spoke about ending the bifurcation between sex and labor trafficking. This idea is based on the concept that sex and labor trafficking are intertwined. Sex work should be viewed as labor. Part of the horror of sex labor trafficking is that it involves sexual exploitation as a means of maintaining control. Also, many trafficking experiences involve multiple forms of labor and commercial sexual exploitation. Therefore, the distinction between the two should be eliminated.

Society responds to labor trafficking and sex trafficking differently, so it may seem logical to separate them. However, one of the major differences between the two, which helps create this dichotomy, is the criminalization of sex work. Criminalizing sex work also creates other issues. Many of the problems associated with sex trafficking remain in the shadows because individuals involved in it are afraid to come forward for fear of criminalization.

In contrast to sex trafficking victims, labor trafficking victims have some level of recourse, because if they come forward with the work that they have been doing they will not be penalized. Women engaged in sex work also have little resources available to them because of the criminalization of sex work. There are resources that are available to victims of trafficking, but who falls into that category is often narrowly defined. Many women, unfortunately, are not included in that category, because they either: engaged in sex work voluntarily after being trafficked, or they entered into sex work voluntarily and were then trafficked.… <Read More>

Innovations in the Fight Against Human Trafficking: Perspectives and Proposals – Open Source Innovation Development Session 1

By: Sara Nassof


During this first session, the participants addressed ideas and innovations for continuing forward in the fight against human trafficking. Participants split into different groups to discuss various topics covered during the day. Some of the topics included: reforming law enforcement certifications, making changes to immigration policies, ending the demand for trafficking, organizing the community and lawyers, providing criminal restitution and immunity, and collaborating among organizations. After the small group discussions, all participants returned to the larger group to report back on ideas and highlights.

There were a number of common themes discussed in the breakout sessions, including the need for education, collaboration, creative approaches, and analysis.  Some of the ideas highlighted were:

(1) Providing resources to grassroots organizations: Grassroots organizations are in need of funding and resources for sustainability. These organizations need to network within the community and come together to fight against human trafficking.

(2) Identifying rhetoric versus reality: targeting how the media feeds the rhetoric about trafficking.

(3) Preventing marginalization of different groups and institutions.

(4) Partnering: Also, providing a balance between private law and pro bono work.

(5) Identifying harmful immigration policies that influence and permit trafficking.

(6) Ending the practice of criminalizing victims of trafficking.

(7) Thinking “outside the box”/interdisciplinary approaches.

(8) Identifying the underlying problems and root causes.


Two articles featuring specific topics discussed during these break-out sessions will be posted later this week.… <Read More>