Jackson, Miss. – The U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Southern and Northern Districts of Mississippi and the Mississippi Department of Public Safety presented the first annual Mississippi Human Trafficking Summit today at the Jackson, Mississippi, Convention Center. More than 400 participants, including local, state tribal, and federal law enforcement officers, prosecutors, victim service providers, nonprofits, policy makers and social workers, attended and participating in the Summit.
“Human trafficking is here in Mississippi, and sadly, it is significantly and adversely impacting the lives of many Mississippians,” said U.S. Attorney Hurst. “Our intent with the Mississippi Human Trafficking Council and with this summit is to train and raise awareness among the public, our nonprofits, and our law enforcement in order to prevent future trafficking, rescue and protect victims, and swiftly prosecute these evildoers. The Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Offices in Mississippi have made combatting this horrific and reprehensible crime one of our highest priorities in order to keep the public safe.”
“Today has been such a powerful and important day in the fight against human trafficking here in Mississippi,” said U.S. Attorney Lamar. “We have seen a large, diverse and committed group of people come together to hear about the work that has been done so far, to celebrate the successes and milestones of those engaged in the fight, and to make plans for combatting human trafficking crimes in our Stare in the future. With the continued and combined efforts of those present and others who are willing to work together, we can make a difference in the lives of victims and combat these heinous crimes that strike at the heart of basic human dignity.”
The Mississippi Human Trafficking Council was formed in September 2019, and is chaired by an Assistant U.S. Attorney from Northern District of Mississippi, an Assistant U.S. Attorney from Southern District of Mississippi, and the Mississippi Human Trafficking Coordinator, who works for the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation at the Mississippi Department of Public Safety. The mission of the Council is to use a victim-centered, collaborative, and multi-disciplinary model to prevent trafficking, protect victims, and prosecute criminals in all forms of domestic and international human trafficking, to include commercial sex trafficking and labor trafficking for the protection of both adult and minor victims.
Today’s Summit began with opening remarks from Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves, Lieutenant Governor Delbert Hosemann, Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch, Colonel Chris Gillard, Assistant Commissioner of the Mississippi Department of Public Safety, Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians Tribal Chief Cyrus Ben, U.S. Attorney Chad Lamar of the Northern District of Mississippi, and U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst of the Southern District of Mississippi.
Summit attendees also heard from:
- Bill Woolf, Human Trafficking Programs Director at the Office of Justice Programs within the U.S. Department of Justice;
- Alexandra Perron with A21’s Freedom Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, regarding the upcoming Mississippi Human Trafficking Council Billboard Campaign;
- Council Co-Chairs Kathlyn Van Buskirk – Assistant US Attorney, Southern District of MS, Susan Bradley – Deputy Criminal Chief US Attorney, Northern District of MS, and Ashlee Lucas – Statewide Human Trafficking Coordinator, MS Bureau of Investigation
- Council Subcommittee Chairs:
- Outreach and Public Awareness – Chair: Mandy Davis, Chief of Staff, MSDPS
- Strategic Planning and Trafficking Protocol – Chair: Dr. Tamara Hurst, School of Social Work, University of Southern Mississippi
- Policy and Legislation – Co-Chairs: Angela Cockerham, MS House of Representatives; Lora Hunter, General Counsel, MS Department of Public Safety
- Training – Chair: Paula Broome, MS Attorney General’s Office
- Victim Service – Co-Chairs: Hollie Jeffery, Children’s Advocacy Centers of Mississippi; Heather Wagner, Mississippi State Department of Health, Office Against Interpersonal Violence
- A Human Trafficking Survivor
- U.S. Department of Justice Grantees Relating to Human Trafficking:
- Heather Wagner – Grant – Victim Services
- Ashlee Lucas – Grant – Law Enforcement
- Those Involved in Mississippi Initiatives Addressing Human Trafficking:
- Heather Collins – Statewide Human Trafficking Analyst, Mississippi Bureau of Investigation
- Guy Collins – Master Sergeant, Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, Human Trafficking Special Victim’s Unit
- Nick Brown – Hinds County Sheriff’s Office, FBI Task Force Officer
- Mike Hurst – US Attorney, Southern District of Mississippi
- Chad Lamar – US Attorney, Northern District of Mississippi
- Leslie Williams Fisher, Trial Attorney, U.S. Department of Justice, Criminal Division Child Exploitation & Obscenity Section
The Department of Justice continues to fight human trafficking through investigating and prosecuting traffickers, dismantling transnational human trafficking networks, enhancing victim identification and protection of all victims of trafficking, and funding and providing domestic and international anti-trafficking programs. Information on the Department of Justice’s efforts to combat human trafficking can be found here. An update on human trafficking prosecution statistics can be found here.
Information about the Mississippi Human Trafficking Council can be found here.