Prison inmates: Easy targets for human traffickers
Trafficked women often bounce in and out of correctional facilities on prostitution arrests
By Larson Binzer
In 2010, at a women’s correctional facility in central Florida, an unassuming correctional officer happened to attend a seminar conducted by the International Association of Human Trafficking Investigators. This voluntary training would be the first instruction on sex trafficking that he ever received. For the next six years, John Meekins would go on to dedicate much of his time to studying the jailhouse recruitment of women into human trafficking rings.
After that first training seminar, Meekins thought back to earlier parts of his career and the obvious signs of trafficking and abuse he had missed. This prompted him to begin a “low key” anti-trafficking campaign in his prison by putting up posters that defined human trafficking and provided information about how to report it to prison authorities. The administration has allowed his self-styled campaign, but has not officially endorsed it.
Several weeks after he began his efforts, an inmate approached Meekins and told him that she had been charged with prostitution, but had been under the control of a trafficker named Black who was now demanding that she use her time in prison to recruit other inmates into their circle. She showed him the first of what would turn out to be dozens of letters, in which he wrote:
“We need a team of like 8 solid bitches who not on no jealous shit and we cannot go wrong,” Black wrote. “Baby I know there are hoes in there with you and I know you know real people so make it happen.”