USM Creates First State Center to Combat and Study Human Trafficking | Free News

Earlier this summer, the Mississippi Colleges Board of Trustees approved a proposal from the University of Southern Mississippi School of Social Work to establish a human trafficking research and training center. of Human Beings – the first center of its kind in the state.

The purpose of CHRT is to chart a new course for Mississippi anti-human trafficking policies, legislation, protocols, and victim services.

Human trafficking is the exploitation of other human beings, young and adult, of all genders, for sexual and/or labor purposes. Hundreds of cases are reported each year in Mississippi, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, but due to reporting limitations, USM researchers believe the numbers are likely even higher than current data suggests.

“There is a general lack of knowledge regarding the scope and complexity of human trafficking in Mississippi, and we believe this can be significantly improved,” said Dr. Tamara Hurst, CHRT co-director and associate professor. at the USM School of Social. Work. “We are encouraged that the DIH Board of Directors has given a vote of confidence to our CHRT proposal, as well as the support of our University President, Provost, Dean and Director of ‘school. We know there is a lot of work ahead of us and we can’t wait to get started.

The CHRT will be an interdisciplinary collaboration of researchers, trafficking survivors, and students who will participate in the collection, analysis, and evaluation of human trafficking data from state and local agencies in Mississippi. . By working to develop a screening and assessment tool for statewide use, the CHRT team will help streamline data collection and management to prevent the spread of misinformation and inaccurate data. Their findings will inform evidence-based education and training for agency personnel in an effort to accelerate the development of Mississippi’s anti-human trafficking efforts.

A recent series of training and adult learning on human trafficking through the Mississippi Department of Social Services Division of Youth Services found that youth services counselors had little understanding of definitions of human trafficking, risk factors and sources of referral for children who had been victims of human trafficking. The co-directors of CHRT seek to change that and much more using their professional and academic expertise.

Groundwork to combat human trafficking in Mississippi began in 2015 with Governor Phil Bryant’s Human Trafficking Task Force, to which Hurst was appointed. In 2019, the Mississippi Human Trafficking Council, housed within the Department of Public Safety and in partnership with the Mississippi Department of Health, was funded by the federal government to engage law enforcement in multidisciplinary efforts to anti-trafficking across the state.

An active participant in these conversations and efforts, Hurst was appointed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Mississippi to chair a strategic planning and trafficking protocol subcommittee for the Council.

While working with various organizations in Mississippi, Hurst realized that an effective solution to the state’s human trafficking problem had to be firmly grounded in subject matter expertise and research to to succeed. She envisioned an academic center that could meet those needs and connect experts from across the country to learn what works and what doesn’t.

Leading this new approach from an academic perspective would be quite an undertaking, which is why Dr. Kimberly Hogan was a welcome addition to the state in 2021. Dr. Hogan joined the faculty of the USM School of Social Work with new ideas and a vast network of connections.

Hogan is an expert consultant for the United States Department of Justice. Her research focuses on the prevention, detection, identification and treatment of sex trafficking among minors and adults.

To learn more about the Human Trafficking Research and Training Center, visit usm.edu/chrt. For more information about USM School of Social Work, visit usm.edu/social-work.

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