Combatting human trafficking networks within prison walls
By Leischen Stelter, American Military University
For years, John Meekins heard inmates talk about how they had been prostituted and held captive by pimps. As a corrections officer, he often considered it part of the lifestyle of many drug abusers, but it wasn’t until he attended a conference on human trafficking that he quickly realized that many of these inmates were likely victims of human trafficking—and that he had done nothing to stop it.
“What I learned at that conference made me realize we had this problem at the prison where I work,” Meekins said. “Once I began to recognize it, I realized I was dealing with human trafficking in one way or another on a regular basis—probably about one or two times a month.”
Meekins has been a corrections officer in Florida for more than nine years. After learning more about the signs of human trafficking, he started on a personal mission to investigate what was happening within the prison walls.
“Inmates started coming out of the woodwork telling me they had been trafficked and no one knew about it,” he said.
But what he soon discovered went far beyond just a handful of inmates. He found that there was a network of female prisoners actively recruiting other female inmates on behalf of outside pimps.