New Nonprofit Providing Legal Support for Human Trafficking Survivors Launches

By | News

PRESS RELEASE

November 6, 2017 (San Diego): Survivors of human trafficking have a new resource for resolving legal issues and achieve new personal and professional success with the launch of the charitable non-profit, Free to Thrive. Led by attorney and anti-trafficking activist Jamie Quient, Free to Thrive fills an important niche in the broader battle against human trafficking by, among other things, providing free legal services such as the pursuit of complete removal of past criminal charges to help survivors better secure employment and housing.

“We all have a role to play in the fight against human trafficking,” says Free to Thrive President and Managing Attorney Jamie Quient. “Our goal is to help victims of human trafficking recover from the trauma they endured through their exploitation and support their transition from survivors to thrivers.”

“Free to Thrive has hit the ground running, and is already serving more than twenty human trafficking survivors with a wide range of services,” said Free to Thrive Board Chair Meghan Spieker, the outgoing Co-Chair of the Lawyers Club of San Diego’s Human Trafficking Collaborative. “Jamie’s passion for assisting these brave survivors knows no bounds, and is an inspiration to all of us volunteering to serve on the Free to Thrive board.”

The innovative Free to Thrive Legal Clinic is the first of its kind in San Diego, and is designed to serve as a model for pro bono legal services that could be replicated throughout the United States. The program collaborates with law firms, law students, academics, social service providers, law enforcement, and government agencies to provide free legal services for human trafficking survivors. “One of the things that make our program unique is that we are a mobile legal clinic, operating throughout San Diego county at a number of social service organizations serving human trafficking survivors,” Quient explained. This makes it easier for clients to access legal services and get the justice they deserve. The clinic offers a variety of legal services including child custody and family law matters, civil restraining orders, civil litigation, immigration assistance, minor emancipation, and vacating criminal records.

The ability to vacate a human trafficking victim’s criminal record—a total removal of any traces of charges—has only been available since January 1, 2017, with the implementation of a California vacatur law (Penal Code § 236.14). That law resulted from the advocacy campaign led by the Lawyers Club of San Diego Human Trafficking Collaborative (HTC). While an attorney with Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves & Savitch LLP and serving on the Lawyers Club of San Diego board of directors, Quient spearheaded the creation of the HTC and was instrumental in HTC’s vacatur advocacy efforts. Quient was inspired to advocate for the creation of this new law by a pro bono client who at 16 years of age had been forced into San Diego’s underground sex industry by an older man she had considered her “boyfriend.”

“What became clear as we in HTC looked more closely at what we could do as lawyers to help was that merely expunging a client’s criminal record wasn’t enough,” Quient says. “Expunged records can still show up in background searches making this remnant of their exploitation a barrier to employment and housing. A survivor of human trafficking has already suffered enough in having been forced to engage in criminal behavior. They need a clean slate if they are to rebuild their lives.”

As part of Free to Thrive’s mission to empower survivor success in all aspects of their lives, the organization has established relationships with a wide range of other nonprofits including those combating human trafficking. This allows Quient and her fellow attorneys to connect clients with services including safe and supportive housing, trauma-specific counseling, medical and dental care, financial literacy, credit repair, and vocational and educational assistance. The ultimate goal is to support survivors as they recover from the trauma they suffered as a result of their exploitation and empower them to improve their physical and mental health, complete their education, obtain gainful employment, and achieve financial independence.

Free to Thrive is actively seeking attorneys licensed to practice in California to provide pro bono services, and also has a Law Student Externship program that allows current law students to aid Free to Thrive attorneys in client legal service. It has also launched a fundraising campaign on Classy, with all donations tax-deductible.

About Free to Thrive

Headquartered in San Diego, California, Free to Thrive empowers survivors of human trafficking to be free from exploitation and to thrive by providing them with legal services and connections to other supportive services. Because serving human trafficking survivors is a team effort, Free to Thrive proudly works with a wide range of nonprofits, government agencies and law firms to best serve the survivor community. Learn more at freetothrivesd.org.

MEDIA CONTACT

Patrick Ross
Email: patrick@patrick-ross.com
Phone: 202-246-6631

Our Story

By | News, Our Story

Free to Thrive started with a question:

What more can be done to help human trafficking victims in San Diego?

When attorney Jamie Quient would ask that question to individuals working to support victims, she repeatedly heard the same answer: We need lawyers.

“We all have a role to play in the fight against human trafficking,” Jamie says, and she knew hers.

Jamie began her anti-trafficking efforts as an active member of the Lawyers Club of San Diego—eventually serving as its president—by spearheading the creation of a Human Trafficking Collaborative (HTC) focused on three discrete needs: legal and community education, policy advocacy, and survivor support. HTC has grown to over 250 members and now produces regular trainings for attorneys and community members and an annual Legislative Roundtable.  Through its advocacy efforts, HTC spearheaded the passage and signing of a California vacatur law (Penal Code 236.14) that provides restorative justice to human trafficking victims by removing any trace of related criminal charges from their record.

Jamie also began taking on pro bono cases while working full-time at Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves & Savitch LLP, the largest San Diego-based law firm.  Through her volunteer and pro bono work, Jamie came to realize that she needed to do more. Thus Free to Thrive was born, working to bring San Diego’s lawyers, law firms and law schools together to help address this serious need.

Free to Thrive works hand in hand with community organizations, law enforcement, government agencies, and law firms to ensure human trafficking survivors can live the lives they always dreamed of living. It’s a fulfillment of what inspired Jamie to become a lawyer.

“My whole purpose in going to law school was that I wanted to help people,” she says. With Free to Thrive, she’s inspiring a movement of like-minded attorneys to do likewise.

Free To Thrive President Speaks At 2017 Just Conference In New Orleans

By | Events

Free to Thrive President Jamie Quient will speak October 25, 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana at the nation’s leading conference on juvenile sex trafficking, the 2017 JuST conference.

The JuST conference focuses on today’s most pressing issues in the anti-trafficking field, with presentations and workshops focused on skill-building, survivor experiences, cross-discipline collaboration, task force development, case studies and lessons learned.

Jamie will join Staff Attorney Melanie Delgado of the University of San Diego Children’s Advocacy Institute and Deputy District Attorney Fanny Yu of the San Diego County Attorney’s Office on a panel titled “Legal Evolution in the Response to CSEC, and Legal Remedies for CSEC Survivors”.

Jamie brings legal expertise on post-conviction relief and other remedies for survivors of commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC).  Jamie actively participated in a coalition that advocated for the passage of a groundbreaking new law in California that clears a path for survivors of human trafficking to clear criminal records related to their trafficking through a petition for vacatur. Since that new law, codified under California Penal Code 236.14, went into effect January 1, 2017, Jamie has worked closely with key stakeholders to implement the law and is representing clients seeking this remedy.

A Survivor’s Story

By | Profiles

Sarah was a quintessentially normal teenager. Smart and caring with a sunny personality, she grew up in a loving home in a safe San Diego neighborhood, dreaming of someday becoming a doctor. Everything changed, however, when at 16 an older man she considered her “boyfriend” trafficked her into San Diego’s underground sex industry.

For the next seven years, Sarah was forced to live a life as sexual property. She finally managed to escape her traffickers at the age of 23, making her way to a rare local recovery program, GenerateHope. In this safe environment Sarah breezed through her GED exams and prepared to enroll in community college, but faced one more challenge that followed her from her past: a criminal record.

Survivors like Sarah face numerous roadblocks and barriers that impede their ability to obtain employment and enroll in technical and career training programs. Trafficked individuals often do not identify as victims, may lack families, and may not have developed support systems outside of the people connected to their trafficking.

Survivors may also face significant physical and mental health concerns as a result of their experiences. Once someone is no longer being victimized by human trafficking, the harm should stop, but it continues.

With little or no work experience outside of being trafficked, as well as limited access to education, financial security is often a dream instead of a goal. For survivors to become thriving members of society, healing must be combined with envisioning new life paths.

Free to Thrive operates San Diego’s first program offering comprehensive legal services to clear the way for survivors to qualify for career and educational opportunities. Operating in collaboration with law firms, law students, academics, social service providers, law enforcement, and government agencies, the Free to Thrive Legal Clinic is designed to serve as an innovative model for pro bono legal services throughout the United States, while supporting survivors on their path to success.

According to a groundbreaking 2015 research study by the University of San Diego and Point Loma Nazarene University, an estimated 1,766 sex trafficking victims each year have contact with San Diego law enforcement, and this is estimated to be only 20% of the total sex trafficking victim population in San Diego. The Free to Thrive Legal Clinic strives to identify and assist as many of those victims as possible and empower them to live meaningful, rewarding lives free of fear and oppression.