By Ally Hamzey, Erica Marra, and Katie Dudlets
The Meridian Times Staff Reporters
In the aftermath of the arrest of Ingham County Prosecutor Stuart Dunnings III, Ingham County residents are left acknowledging the presence of human trafficking within their community. Mason resident Denise Maurer said the Dunnings arrest put the issue of human trafficking in perspective. “I think we just want human trafficking to go away and to not think that could be really happening in the United States, that our own people are trafficking our own people,“ Maurer said. “But I know now that it’s happening here.”
A state-local-federal investigation revealed that Dunnings allegedly engaged in commercial sex hundreds of times with multiple women over the course of five years. Dunnings is facing 10 counts of engaging in the services of prostitution, one count of prostitution/pandering and four counts of willful neglect of duty in the counties of Ingham, Clinton and Ionia as a result of this investigation.
Imagine being treated as a slave and being manipulated into thinking there is no way out. Imagine not knowing who to turn to, or where to go for help. Human trafficking reaches small corners of the earth, and is a problem that agencies and people are fighting to eliminate in Lansing and Michigan as a whole on a daily basis. Earlier this month, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, and Sen. Bill Cassidy introduced a bi-partisan bill known as the Trafficking Awareness Training for Health Care Act of 2015 that could change the lives of human trafficking victims in America. The bill intends to assist health care professionals in better recognizing possible signs of human trafficking in patients by awarding grants to schools of medicine that teach the signs of human trafficking and creating a training program for health care professionals to better identify victims.
Peters has been vocal about human trafficking issues in Michigan and has worked alongside the Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force to learn more about the broader issue.
By BECKY McKENDRY
Capital News Service
LANSING – Michigan law may soon come closer to mirroring federal law when dealing with minors engaged in prostitution, but not close enough for some anti-human trafficking advocates. A new House bill would presume that any 16- or 17-year-old working in prostitution was “coerced into child sexually abusive activity” and would be offered assistance to avoid prosecution. The proposal comes as part of a broad, 19-bill initiative to combat human trafficking in Michigan. Other bills in the initiative would create counseling services for trafficking victims, allow trafficking victims to sue their captors for civil damages and more. This bill’s lead sponsor, Rep. Eileen Kowall, R-White Lake, says the proposal would help break the cycle of children caught in the sex trade.
By MICHAEL GERSTEIN
Capital News Service
LANSING – In the midst of what experts call the second-fastest growing criminal industry in the world after drug trafficking, some legislators are pushing for tougher punishment for sex traffickers. The new legislation would ensure that defendants convicted of coercing children ages 16 and 17 into prostitution are more stiffly punished, said Senate sponsor Judy Emmons, R-Sheridan. Sex trafficking is widely considered a form of modern-day slavery. When Michigan’s human trafficking laws were bolstered in 2010, sentences for those exploiting 16- and 17-year-olds were shorter than for younger children, Emmons said. Emmons said the bill, pending in the Judiciary Committee, would change that and set a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.