ARIZONA NEWS

MCSO, ASU partnership helping identify victims of sex trafficking

Jun 7, 2024, 4:25 AM

MCSO Sheriff Russ Skinner at a press conference explaining what has come of a partnership with ASU ...

MCSO Sheriff Russ Skinner at a press conference explaining what has come of a partnership with ASU STIR for sex trafficking training. (Balin Overstolz-McNair/KTAR News)

(Balin Overstolz-McNair/KTAR News)

PHOENIX — Over 300 staff members with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office received sex trafficking training through a partnership with Arizona State University’s Office of Sex Trafficking Intervention Research.

The two organizations worked together to develop training specifically designed for jails and prisons called “Sex Trafficking Behind Bars,” which focuses on identifying trafficking victims and crimes within prison complexes.

“This has given us an opportunity to be proactive, to not only train and educate our own staff both in the jail system and out in the field to investigate these types of crimes, but also identify those victims,” MCSO Sheriff Russ Skinner said in a press conference.

In 2023, a tablet screening tool designed to help identify potential victims of trafficking was first used at Estrella Jail, an all-female jail in Phoenix.

Since July 1, 191 inmates have completed the screening and been identified as victims. Over 100 of those have been interviewed by a trafficking liaison and connected to community service providers. Additionally, the Arizona Human Trafficking Tip Line has received nearly 200 phone calls from MCSO jails, and four inmates have been placed in trafficking survivor houses.

“What we wanna do is help catch that to get them out of that cycle and help break that cycle and to get them rehabilitated, the services, so that they can have a normal life, a normal family,” Skinner added.

Since 2019, 10 traffickers have been turned over to detectives after being identified through tablet activity.

The Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office and the Arizona Department of Corrections are two agencies that have received the “Sex Trafficking Behind Bars” training, and it has also been presented at larger industry events, such as RISS Western States Conference and the Arizona Human Trafficking Summit 2023.

It will also be presented at JailCon 2024 beginning Monday in Chandler and at this year’s Arizona Human Trafficking Summit in September.

Self-help classes will also be administered to inmates to help with any related trauma.

The partnership received its funding from an AZDEMA Anti-Human Trafficking Grant, which provides $495,000 over three years. The grant pays for the partnership itself as well as a dedicated investigator and an East Valley location where victims are interviewed.

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MCSO, ASU partnership helping identify victims of sex trafficking