After the Webinar: The Recognition and Prevention of Sex Trafficking in Adult Corrections Facilities. Q&A with Barbara Mattes

Webinar presenter Barbara Mattes answered a number of your questions after her presentation, Recognition, and Prevention of Sex Trafficking in Adult Corrections Facilities. Here are just a few of her responses.


Audience Question:  Where we can go to learn more and I thought, this might be a great opportunity for you to talk about some of the handouts that you have shared with the audience?

Barbara Mattes: Yeah, I have a bibliography for all the information I have here, there are links to them. So, anything I spoke about in here, I have a link to it. There’s the power control wheel. The resources are also if you go to the resources page that I have, or go to that document, it has lots of resources, not only for training but also information.



Audience Question:  How much training do corrections officers typically receive about sex trafficking? And I thought that was a really intriguing question. 

Barbara Mattes: Actually, unless someone steps up and does it, that’s not the norm for them to get trained on that. It’s something I recognize. So, one of the things I did prior to doing this training, I wanted to know what our officers knew about it, so I can start to format the training. What I found was that I pulled about 100 officers. Every single one of them gave me back the ——- for human smuggling. Human smuggling is not human trafficking, smuggling is a crime against the border. It is a crime against a nation. Human trafficking is a crime against a person, one is transportation-based, and one is exploitation-based. So, and there may be elements of transportation involved in sex trafficking, but they’re not interchangeable. So, I don’t know if that really answered your question. But it gives you an idea of kind of what the training needs to be done because it is something that and it affects our detention facilities greatly. And I think a lot of crimes are going under the radar because they’re just not connecting them to the sex traffickers.

Host: You know, I’m really glad you said that because I would have thought those terms are interchangeable too, so I’m really glad you explained that. Thank you so much for doing that.



Audience Question: Barbara, I know we’re talking primarily about adults today, but is there also a connection between sex trafficking and juvenile detention? So, is this a problem that we should be watching out for in our juvenile detention facilities? 

Barbara Mattes: Absolutely, I think they’re actually more aware of it in juvenile detention facilities because well, for several reasons. Sex trafficking of juveniles is it’s easier to prosecute and then we have a real problem in our nation with our foster care system and our detention system and our justice system with juveniles, where juveniles are just targeted there and it’s easier to prosecute because really don’t need all the force fraud or coercion as well. But the juvenile detention centers, at least the one here the Pima County one has already had a program in place, and it is recognized, and they do take steps, and it’s from what I understand really good. But I just don’t see that with adult correctional facilities.



Audience Question: Do you have a sense of how long sex trafficking has been done out of or being done with jails? How long this has actually been happening? 

Barbara Mattes: I imagine that it’s probably since jails have been invented. It just wasn’t recognized that’s what it is. Like, I mean, everyone has viewed prostitution as just prostitution as something that was consensual between two people. When, really, it is not. I talked about yielding versus consent. If you have someone that is addicted to drugs or out on the street and has no place to sleep and someone says, Hey, I’ll give you a place to sleep. And I’ll give you some drugs. I’ll give you some food, but you have to do a commercial sex act to get that. Well, they want to get off the street and they want to get someplace safe. So, they say, “Yeah, I’ll do that.” Well, that’s yielding. That is not consent. That’s why you need the training to recognize it because it’s viewed as prostitution and really, they’re just not, they’re given a choice but it’s really not a choice. So, we have to look at it that way. So, I imagine that something like that has been going on for as long as we’ve had these institutions if you just weren’t recognizing it.

Host: Oh my gosh, I wish we were in a classroom environment right now because I bet a whole bunch of light bulbs just went off with what you just said that there’s a difference between consent and yielding. What a great point. Thank you for making that.



Audience Question: How is the initial connection made between a trafficker and the incarcerated person? I know you talked about a couple of different ways, but what typically is that primary way of the connection being made? 

Barbara Mattes: Well, so we’ll have a prostitute or sex trafficking victim, however, it starts or whatever it ends up being, out on the street. That person, that woman who is arrested, and she generally has standing orders, that when she is arrested and brought into the jail, she starts recruiting and getting a new product for the trafficker. So, she sees girls that are isolated, that don’t get a lot of visits, that are by themselves, and start asking questions, find out. They really don’t have a job that will have a place to go. And she starts talking about the trafficker and makes him sound like just a great guy. And then she’ll, though, connect them through that way, or they’ll go to places, like or And they’ll look at those pictures, and then, you just take that one click. You get all the information you need, and generally, you say, “Hey, is Joan Smith in your— can I get her information, I need to write her a letter.” And they’ll give you that information, it’s public information. And then someone starts writing, and then they think, well, this person cares about me. This person is thinking about me, and I’m feeling important, and feeling wanted, and feeling loved, and I don’t have to worry about where I’m going to go after this. I’m not going to have to worry about getting a job or a place to sleep as soon as I get out. Or, even where to get a drink of water, because, this person is going to take care of me. So, that’s how they make that connection. They act like they care.



Audience Question: So, during your presentation, you talked about how women are recruited into trafficking. Are men ever targeted like this? 

Barbara Mattes: Absolutely. Men and the LGBTQ community are definitely victims. I stuck with women because that’s where my knowledge base is. I don’t. I know that it happens. I know that it occurs, and we need to do more, take more steps to include them in this. I just not my knowledge base right now, I’m working on it. There are some I have some feelers out with people who are actually very experienced in this, so I can broaden my knowledge base on it. I know what happens is absolutely true it does happen and there are victims and we should be justice careful with them as we are of the women.



Audience Question: Usually after a pimp is prosecuted, and put in jail, what happens to the sex trafficking victims? Do they make connections with local resources to try and place them back into their homes? What it, what ensures that victim safety after the perpetrator’s caught to help them get back on their feet and get back to regular life? 

Barbara Mattes: So that is something that law enforcement has struggled with over the years. But we aren’t getting much, much better at it. I know where we have moved from arrest to more victim-centered investigations. One of the problems they had with getting victim services for these victims of sex trafficking victims was, how do you get them services if they’re not in the system. So, they really had to work on that. And what they started doing was they started recognizing that the victim is actually the victim and that the person that should be arrest is not necessarily on-site. So, they started passing bills and stuff where the person that is controlling the victim, the person that arranged the hotels, that arrange the websites and arrange the dates and control the money, that’s the person they started going after. But it is difficult to get victim services. But they’re getting much, much better at it. These non-government organizations, most trafficking task force have a component and almost it’s almost obligatory that they have the non-government organizations to provide those services to the victims so that they, we aren’t having to arrest them to get them those services.



Audience Question: Have you ever seen instances where corrections staff may actually also be involved in helping to facilitate the trafficking operation? 

Barbara Mattes: I don’t, I’ve never seen that in my thing at least not knowingly were like, for instance, if the officer I talked about who was escorting the girl to the visitation and if he hadn’t recognized those, those indicators, he would have been facilitating that he would allow it to happen. One of the things, when I talk about getting, getting with someone who’s passionate and working, and collaborating with them, It’s someone that should be offended deeply to their core, that someone under your watch, regardless of whatever crimes they’ve committed, someone under your watch is being victimized, that should offend them to the core. And I hope that that is something across the board. But I know that there are bad apples out there everywhere. And I know that’s a very benign term for something that I believe what you are suggesting, but I have not seen that, other than lack of recognition assistance.



Audience Question: Is there a sort of shared database or shared file or some sort of shared resource that kind of categorizes the tattoos associated with trafficking? So, the corrections professionals know what to look for? 

Barbara Mattes: That’s a good question. There must be, there must be. I know that I got a lot of my information, just Googling everything. So there has to be something like that. Actually, I should probably look for something specific to that. But I know if I Googled sex trafficking tattoos, which I had to send a memo to my department saying, hey, I’m going to be doing these kinds of researches because I had to use the word sex a lot. But there has to be some kind of database. I’m just not aware of it. You might want to talk to some of your sex crimes units or to any if you if you’re not aware of it. If you go to your state’s web page, they often have their sex trafficking task force up there and they may have something like that.

Host: You know, if you find a database, feel free to send me an e-mail, and we’ll get it listed for the audience members here today.



Audience Question: I work in victim services, how can I or my organization be more vigilant and helpful?

Barbara Mattes: Well, mental health is very important. Be aware that there’s a lot of PTSD involved with sex trafficking. There’s so much abuse. There are so much violence and drug addiction. And drug addiction can be self-instigated because they’re just trying to numb themselves to what’s going on. I read somewhere that the average lifespan of someone involved in sex trafficking is about seven years. And you also recognize that I know sex trafficking can hit somebody from any class, from any social area. It doesn’t matter where you come from, but the majority is from people that were abused from a very young age. Likely they’ve been trafficked from their own family. So, it’s something that goes on. So, they’re very, very, they have a lot of mental health issues along with the physical issues. So, you have to be very aware of that. And get mental health or behavioral health involved right away. Mainly, they need to feel safe and they don’t want to be pushed. Sometimes, they don’t even recognize themselves as a victim because they feel wanted to feel like they have it. They made this choice rather than someone forced them into it.


Click Here to Watch a Recording of Recognition, and Prevention of Sex Trafficking in Adult Corrections Facilities. 



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