Thursday, April 21, 2016

What is $1.25 Worth? Women Prisoners in the Fight against Trafficking

We all know that awareness of human trafficking is increasing. It’s about time. Let’s talk about a population that has long known what Human Trafficking is all about:  inmates at a women’s prison.

I began my career as a corrections officer for the Michigan Department of Corrections in 1989. I worked at Huron Valley Men’s Facility in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Right next door was Huron Valley Women’s facility. I heard all kinds of stories about the women in that prison. When I worked the gun tower and overlooked the yard of Women’s Facility I thought to myself “ There are a lot of mothers and daughters in there- how sad that families are without them. “  I could only imagine what kind of life they had lived that led to imprisonment.

Fast forward to 2016 and I am a field agent for the Department Of Corrections. I serve on a local Human Trafficking Task Force as well as the State Human Trafficking Task Force.  At the State meeting in March 2016 Director Jane White asked me to look at a check from the Department of Treasury and attached to the donation were stacks of donation slips. I quickly realized the slips, called Disbursement Authorization Forms, were from prisoners housed at Huron Valley Women’s facility. Prisoners!   Donating their money to our Human Trafficking Task Force.  

I learned that inmates walked to donate the money.  Much like any other 5K walk to raise money, prisoners are allowed to participate in fundraisers as well; only instead of walking on a rail trail or river walk like you and I would, the women walk on a track surrounded by fence and razor wire.  I also learned that many others prisoners walked in solidarity but did not have the means to donate.

Think about this:  prisoners do have jobs in the prison. They work in the laundry, kitchen, yard detail, as cleaning porters, and so on. The top pay scale per day is less than $1.25.  So, when reviewing the donation amounts, it is possible that a woman prisoner worked for four or five months to make a $ 5.00 donation.  Instead of spending the money on candy, snacks or other items, these women chose to give a donation to us. Think about it - over 50 prisoners donating $ 635.00!  Amazing !

The donation seems like a million dollars to me.  It’s not just the money.  It’s the thought and the time. I am moved by the idea of women walking around and around the track, each lap working toward a goal of raising money, to donate toward a cause that is probably so very personal to them.  Probably some of these women have been trafficked, or know someone who has, or was involved in trafficking somehow.  They include women who were abused, mistreated, drug addicted, did heinous things to pay for their addictions, and who were taken advantage of in every conceivable way. It is these very women who thought of human trafficking as they took each step, trying in their own way to make a difference.   I am beyond touched by the donation and can’t stop thinking about it.

Take Action:  The next time you pay $ 1.25 for something, think about the prisoner, who worked all day to earn that wage. Think about making a donation to the Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force or your regional human trafficking task force in the amount of your own day’s wages. Then, think about how your donation and your work on the Task Force may help one victim not end up at Huron Valley Women’s Facility. Donations to support the fight against human trafficking in Michigan, can be mailed to Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force, 717 US 27 North, Marshall, MI 49068.

Kimberly Ade has been employed for 27 years with the Michigan Department of Corrections, currently working as a field agent. Ade began her career as a corrections officer at Huron Valley Men’s facility working exclusively in the Self- Mutilation Prevention Unit, then moved to field work where she has supervised adult felons including sex offenders and those on probation, parole, tether, and  alcohol monitoring. In addition to supervision, Ade completes investigative reports for the Circuit Court.

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