Academic journal article International Journal of Criminal Justice Sciences

Human Trafficking Courses in Undergraduate Criminology and Criminal Justice Curricula in the USA

Academic journal article International Journal of Criminal Justice Sciences

Human Trafficking Courses in Undergraduate Criminology and Criminal Justice Curricula in the USA

Article excerpt


The crime of human trafficking has received increased international attention over the past decade. Human trafficking is now developing into a subject of widespread interest to governments, nongovernmental actors, and scholars. In recent years, numerous antitrafficking statutes have been passed or amended, anti-trafficking agencies and organizations have proliferated, and an impressive amount of research on human trafficking and contemporary slavery has been conducted by scholars from a diverse range of disciplines (Gozdziak & Bump, 2008; U.S. Department of State, 2010).

Human trafficking is a "contemporary manifestation of slavery" that affects millions of men, women, and children in every country and nation (U.S. Congress, 2000). Trafficking for sex and labor occurs both within and between countries (Aronowitz, 2009). People from vulnerable populations are trafficked into labor or sexual exploitation for little or no pay. The duties of modern slaves vary: exotic dancing, pornography, hotel work, restaurant labor, construction, factory labor, housekeeping, childcare, landscaping, gardening, trinket selling, street begging, and criminal activities such as prostitution, selling and/or transporting drugs, pick pocketing, and moving arms or stolen vehicles (Logan, Walker, & Hunt, 2009; Aronowitz, 2009). Some live in private residences where they must work long hours as housekeepers, maids, and nannies, while others work in sweatshops, factories, hotels, nail salons, restaurants, agricultural fields or in the sex industry. While victims' experiences vary according to gender and situational variables, sexual abuse is more commonly experienced by persons trafficked into sexual exploitation. Women and girls (and sometimes men and boys) trafficked into forced labor can be sexually assaulted as well (Logan et al., 2009).

Aside from being a crime, human trafficking entails grave violations of human rights. Undoubtedly, the issue of human trafficking is perceived as a multi-dimensional threat by many governments and non-governmental organizations. The U. S. Department of State (2008) elaborates on the impact of human trafficking:

It deprives people of their human rights and freedoms, it increases global health risks, and it fuels the growth of organized crime. Human trafficking has a devastating impact on individual victims, who often suffer physical and emotional abuse, rape, threats against self and family, and even death. But the impact of human trafficking goes beyond individual victims; it undermines the health, safety, and security of all nations it touches.

To address the issue of human trafficking, the United States Government advocates a three-prong approach consisting of prevention, protection, and prosecution (U.S. Department of State, 2010). Thus, the U. S. criminal justice system plays an important role in addressing human trafficking because effective prosecution and criminal sanctions are in its realm. Thirty eight human trafficking task forces funded by the U.S. Department of Justice have been established to provide case coordination and law enforcement training (U.S. Department of State, 2010).

These developments in the anti-trafficking movement are part of a changing world to which education must adapt. Human trafficking courses are offered in a variety of programs such as social work and interdisciplinary social studies. The focus of the current study is on crime studies programs. Human trafficking requires attention from criminology and criminal justice education as these disciplines are thought to heavily influence the criminal justice system and perceptions of crime. Attention to human trafficking given by college-level crime studies programs would provide knowledge that enables individuals to critically examine the issue and seek ways to effectively address the crime, and add a global character to victimological studies. Within this context, the current study seeks to explore the extent to which human trafficking is a subject of study in current criminal justice and criminology curricula in the United States and is followed by a discussion of implications for undergraduate education. …

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