Limits of traditional approach to human trafficking in criminal justice system



Human trafficking is a crime whose scope has attracted international concern as it is prevalent in different forms in each country. Traditionally, there have been glaring gaps in the jurisdictional mandate and roles played by the criminal justice system in handling the issues related to human trafficking. Besides, Atak and Simeon (2014) document the multidimensional complexities that are associated with the response of the criminal justice system to human trafficking. In this report the authors write that human trafficking, owing to its subversive and transient nature, has been shortlisted as organized crime. The roles played by the multi-disciplinary agencies include coordination of the cross-jurisdictional efforts to prevent investigate and prosecute the human trafficking cases. These factors further add to the complexities that characterize human trafficking.

In this discussion, the traditional approaches of the criminal justice system in handling issues of human trafficking are reviewed in light of the revelations of the aforementioned multidimensional complexities. The paper looks at the strengths and weaknesses of these approaches, thereby ascertaining whether these approaches are effective or not. Indeed, human trafficking is a complex social problem whose solution lies not in simplified of linear approach, but in holistic perspectives of the complex interactions between the criminal justice systems and the other human rights agencies.


The traditional approach to handling human trafficking has been developed on the platform that borders on slavery, which is a premier human rights topic. Contrary to the traditional approach, the modern approach entails the enforcement of regulations to curb human trafficking, which stretches beyond the human rights to strengthening the use of criminal justice systems to prosecute the traffickers and rehabilitate the survivors (Farrell & Fahy, 2009). The history of human trafficking cases depicts a reductionist approach in which the criminal justice system was at difficulty in identifying the characteristics and features of the discrete human trafficking components. In the traditional approach, therefore, the criminal justice system focused solely on the perpetrators of the crime, with the legislative frameworks exposing gaps in the understanding of the human trafficking criminal systems.

In many instances, the victim identification was the first step in the traditional approach adopted by the criminal justice system when handling the human trafficking issues. Besides, the police tasked with identifying the victims of human trafficking had several identifiers that enabled them to determine whether a person was a potential victim of human trafficking.

The traditional approach solely relied on the judgment by the identifiers to begin the legislative processes of prosecuting the perpetrators (Farrell & Fahy, 2009). As such, misjudgments by the identifiers was a common pitfall of the traditional reductionist approach, which further heightened the complexities encountered by the criminal justice system in handling the human trafficking cases.

However, the successful identification of the victims of human trafficking would then be followed by the presentation of the evidence to begin the prosecution of the perpetrators. The investigations would then begin, hence requiring the prosecutors to cooperate with the police while the investigations continue. In the traditional approach, the victims were expected to lead the investigators to the perpetrators of human trafficking (Atak & Simeon, 2014). This further reflects the reductionist approach that is identifiable with the traditional methods employed by the criminal justice. This approach inhibits the broad understanding of the configuration of the relationships that characterize the human trafficking networks, further complicating the legislative frameworks.

The traditional method employed by the criminal justice system did not uniformly prioritize human trafficking for the law enforcement agencies (Gallagher & Holmes, 2008). This minimized the amount of resources directed towards establishing a rapid response mechanism to cases of human trafficking. Besides, this method did not prepare the law enforcement officers to handle the trauma suffered by the human trafficking victims. On the other hand, the traditional approach did not provide the perpetrators of human trafficking crimes several loopholes to exploit the gaps in the legislative frameworks. This means, therefore, that the completion of the preliminary phases of investigation would be followed by rapid legal processes that would guarantee quick justice for the victims. In addition, the traditional approaches used proactive investigation strategies, a factor that enhanced the level of community education on the how to identify the victims of human trafficking. These strategies further included the communities in curbing the human trafficking crime, further making it easier to conduct investigations.


The effectiveness or ineffectiveness of the traditional approaches adopted by the criminal justice system in handling human trafficking issues depends on the data of the victims who realized justice, as well as the prevalence of human trafficking within a country. In many ways, the traditional approaches were ineffective, as resource inadequacy limited the abilities of the criminal justice system to provide comprehensive and adequate victim services that would guarantee effective information for investigative purposes. Besides, the minimal focus that the criminal justice system directed towards prosecuting the perpetrators while overlooking the other factors that make human trafficking complex limits the effectiveness of the traditional approach. There is need to improve the resource adequacy and enhance the law enforcement training to promote the effectiveness of the criminal justice system in handling human trafficking. In conclusion, human trafficking is a complex social problem whose solution lies not in simplified of linear approach, but in holistic perspectives of the complex interactions between the criminal justice systems and the other human rights agencies.

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  1. Atak, I., & Simeon, J. (2014). Human Trafficking: Mapping the Legal Boundaries of International Refugee Law and Criminal Justice. Journal Of International Criminal Justice12(5), 1019-1038.
  2. Farrell, A., & Fahy, S. (2009). The problem of human trafficking in the U.S.: Public frames and policy responses. Journal Of Criminal Justice37(6), 617-626.
  3. Gallagher, A., & Holmes, P. (2008). Developing an Effective Criminal Justice Response to Human Trafficking. International Criminal Justice Review18(3), 318-343.
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