Last Friday night I was invited by one of my friends to a choral event on campus. She is involved in the women’s choir at Ohio State and they were hosting a three day summit on sex trafficking. On Friday night the women’s choir preformed a show of different songs that corresponded with Rachel Lloyd’s book, Girls Like Us. Rachel, a survivor of sex trafficking & founder of GEMS (Girls Educational & Mentoring Services), spoke after the event about how she felt about the show and what we can do to make people more aware of sex trafficking. Wow, it was inspiring. The choir was incredible and the show was very well done. Rachel was an amazing speaker and I was so moved by everything she had to say I was rapidly taking notes on my phone about her talk. As Chase and I left the event we were both jazzed with energy from everything she had to say about social injustice, women’s rights, young people, poverty, and a whole bunch of other stuff!
So to the topic of incarceration…one of the first things that she brought up, that I did not expect to hear, was the idea of criminalizing the issues of sex trafficking. As a society we criminalizing the men who have participated in the trafficking of girls & women, as well as the women on some occasions. But criminalizing someone does not solve anything. Huh? Well, in one of my classes last semester we got into the topic of criminalizing people in society and how that leads to mass incarceration rates. Basically, we deal with people that we do not really know how to deal with by throwing them in jail. This does not just apply to sex trafficking either. It can be applied to non-violent crimes, like drug use or the drug trade; crime associated with mental health issues; and even homelessness. The drug trade is one of the main reasons that incarceration rates have increased all together. With the drug trade comes the illegal sales of drugs and the illegal use of drugs. The legalization of drugs is a controversial topic that I don’t really want to get in too deep right now because I will probably write about the more later (since that’s a topic in my independent study). But the idea that drug addicts are treated as criminals when they should be receiving help, because it is really a mental health issue, is important. I’m not saying that this will work in every case, because it won’t work with everyone – but we as a community of people should start prevention programs that will address mental health. Homeless is another controversial issue (again, that I will probably talk about in more depth later), but some cities make it “illegal to be homeless” and will charge loitering fines – but does that really solve the issue?
And how does this relate to urban planning you might ask? Prevention and intervention programs are key within community development. Rachel spoke a lot about the idea of prevention because if many of the girls would have had help young (like around 5-10 years old) then they would have had a less likely chance of being victimized. She discussed how people predict through psychological & sociological studies that certain young people are “on the path to incarceration”. If we predict this, shouldn’t we make more of an effort to change it? As someone passionate about social justice issues within community development, we need to change that path through assistance and better planning! I’m hoping to have an urban planning career that will let me explore social justice issues and make a difference within communities that I serve. My senior quote in high school was “Be the Change” and I seriously believe that through planning, and whatever else I end up doing, I will achieve this goal.
Feel free to comment any questions or ideas for further discussion! I love discussing anything with planning and social justice, but I try not to overload each post with opinions & thoughts.
*Pictures are from my trip to London last spring break