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Ann Arbor, MI – April 12, 2021 – The Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office, in partnership with the Human Trafficking Clinic at the University of Michigan Law School, today announced a new set of protocols to assist survivors of human trafficking.
The protocols, issued by Prosecutor Eli Savit on Monday morning, requires Assistant Prosecuting Attorneys to immediately refer any potential survivor of human trafficking to the Human Trafficking Clinic. The Human Trafficking Clinic will provide legal services for survivors in a variety of civil legal areas, including immigration, post-adjudication criminal relief, family, housing, and access to public benefits.
Although the Prosecutor’s Office cannot directly represent clients in civil matters—a function that will be carried out by the Human Trafficking Clinic—the protocols state that the Prosecutor’s Office will “provide survivors whatever affirmative legal assistance is needed.” Working with the Human Trafficking Clinic, for example, the Prosecutor’s Office will prioritize the expungement of old criminal records for trafficking survivors, and will certify special visas for noncitizen trafficking survivors.
The provision of such assistance is to be “the highest priority” for the Prosecutor’s Office.
The Prosecutor’s Office will continue to “zealously prosecute cases involving human trafficking in Washtenaw County,” though it will prosecute only the perpetrators of trafficking—not the victims.
“The protocols announced today will help ensure that trafficking survivors are able to access much-needed legal services,” Savit said. “Survivors of human trafficking often have a variety of legal needs—from immigration to family matters to access to public benefits. We’re thrilled to have such an amazing partner in the University of Michigan Human Trafficking Clinic to provide survivors the resources they need.”
“Survivors of trafficking should know that this assistance is available to them, and that we will work with the Human Trafficking Clinic to ensure that survivors’ needs are met,” Savit concluded.
The protocols apply both to survivors of sex and labor trafficking, and notes that trafficking “can simply be defined as any kind of compelled service.” The protocols, developed in consultation with the experts at the Human Trafficking Clinic, provide a non-exhaustive list of warning signs that a person may be the victim of human trafficking.
“Offering victim-survivors their own attorneys is crucially important to ensuring empowering and trauma-informed human trafficking investigations,” said Elizabeth Campbell, Co-Director of the Human Trafficking Clinic. “We are excited to formalize this practice in Washtenaw County.”
Survivors who have been assisted by the Human Trafficking Clinic praised the partnership.
“Today, I am a survivor thanks to a small village of people who helped me connect the dots,” said Chemika Yvette Brown, who identifies as a trafficking survivor. “Only when I was referred to Attorney Elizabeth Campbell and her staff at the Human Trafficking Clinic did I start to feel optimistic and comfortable in my truth. The student attorneys got several of my convictions set aside. This experience has been life-changing for me. I have the confidence and optimism that I lacked for many years trying to get my life in order.”
“I am so happy to learn of the collaboration between the Washtenaw Prosecutor’s Office and the Human Trafficking Clinic,” Brown continued. “This is very uncommon but very much needed in our communities. Personally, I hope to be able to pay it forward and advocate for women who have been victimized by the industry of human trafficking.”
The full protocol from the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office are available for the public to view here.