Human Trafficking Attorney General

Then-U.S. Attorney General William Barr speaks with federal officials during a panel discussion on combatting human trafficking at the U.S. Attorney's Office on Sept. 21, 2020, in Atlanta. A report by the nonprofit Human Trafficking Institute found there were no federal human trafficking cases filed in Colorado last year.

Colorado is either really good or really bad when it comes to dealing with human sex trafficking cases, suggests a new analysis of federal data released Thursday morning.

Colorado reported zero new criminal human trafficking cases filed in federal courts in 2020, according to the Human Trafficking Institute's 2020 State Reports, which examined all states, four U.S. territories and the District of Columbia.

Similarly, zero defendants were convicted federally, so none were ordered to pay restitution to victims. That's a trend, according to the institute: Federal courts have not ordered a convicted Colorado trafficking defendant to pay restitution since 2014.

Read the full report by clicking here.

The analysis does not take into account cases in state courts.

Most cases of pimping and forced labor are handled in state courts. Every state has specific laws on human trafficking, which the institute defined human trafficking as “the crime of using force, fraud or coercion to compel someone to work or engage in commercial sex.”

The Colorado Human Trafficking Council stated in its last annual report that the state has seen 295 state judicial filings alleging human trafficking since 2014.

The Colorado Bureau of Investigation reported 58 cases from local jurisdictions in 2019, the latest available numbers. 

Federal courts handled 579 human trafficking prosecutions nationally last year, the third year in a row that prosecutions decreased: Of those, 94% were sex trafficking and 6% were forced labor cases. There were 183 convictions with an average prison sentence of 12 years, according to the Human Trafficking Institute report.

The Biden Justice Department has pledged to take a tougher stance on federal human trafficking cases.

In July the administration designated 17 countries as not doing enough to combat human trafficking and warned them of the risk of U.S. sanctions.

“It’s a global crisis, it’s an enormous source of human suffering,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at the time. He estimated that almost 25 million people, many of them women and children, are victims.

“This crime is an affront to human rights. It's an affront to human dignity," Blinken said.

The institute says the numbers, or lack thereof, provide an "objective summary of how the federal system holds traffickers accountable for their exploitative conduct."

In last year's report, Colorado ranked 46th nationally in 2019 for the number of criminal human trafficking cases in federal courts, with two active cases, but, again, zero new cases that rose to federal charges. Since both were convicted, Colorado rose to 35th in the country for successful prosecutions.

Neither of those convicted were ordered to pay restitution, the institute report found.

“The 2020 Federal Human Trafficking Report provides policymakers, researchers, journalists and nonprofit leaders with an essential tool to analyze the U.S. enforcement of anti-trafficking laws," institute CEO Victor Boutros said in a statement. "One government leader described it as the most reliable cross-section of human trafficking data within the United States."

To report suspected trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline 1-888-373-7888 or text 233733. This hotline is toll-free, and confidential.

The Colorado Human Trafficking Hotline can be reached at 866-455-5075.

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