This year, President Obama said that combating human trafficking was going to be a top priority, yet the U.S. currently spends more in a single day on drug trafficking than it does in an entire year fighting human trafficking. At a forum hosted by ATEST and the CNN Freedom Project, actress and UN Goodwill Ambassador Mira Sorvino claimed “Every month we spend twice the TIP [Trafficking in Persons] budget on military marching bands.” With the passing of the debt ceiling, which promises trillions of dollars in budget cuts, will President Obama be able to make good on his efforts to fight human trafficking? More importantly, is the U.S. willing to shell out significant change to bring significant change?
A study in Georgia revealed how much it would cost the state to treat a sexually exploited youth. The study found that secure facility residential services cost about $183 a day per child, while home-based services cost only $0.82. If Georgia treated all the known victims of sexual exploitation in the state, which, according to another study from Georgia is about 4,000 per year, Georgia alone would need $732,000 a day to place every victim in a secure shelter that provides essential services for rescue and restoration. Alternatively, if Georgia opted for a home-based care for all 4,000 known survivors, the state could spend a modest $3,280, but would be compromising the level of security and therapeutic care necessary for comprehensive and lasting healing. By using a System of Care Approach, like Child Protective Services (group homes, foster care) rather than incorrectly putting them through the Juvenile Justice System, the state would save $65,870 – $211,930 annually. While this approach is favored for its treatment of children as victims and not as offenders, it would seem to be fiscally responsible as well.
Legislators are taking note of the need for funding for victim services. Senate bill S. 596 was introduced by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) that would allocate six $2-2.5 million block grants a year to six locations deemed to have significant sex trafficking activity. This piece of legislation would be an increase from past funding, and is a step in the right direction when allocating funding for victims, prosecution, law enforcement, and training.
Important budget cuts are necessary, but we cannot afford to cut the already measly $17 million dedicated to fight this billion dollar underground industry. The $17 million a year figure becomes even more insignificant as we consider that is the amount the US spends to fight drug trade in one day. Protecting our citizens, especially our youth, should be a top priority—let’s make our federal budget reflect that. Urge your senator to support S. 596 and remind them that the protection of our children’s innocence should never be on the chopping block.