Raising Awareness of Human Trafficking

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Free to Thrive Managing Attorney Jamie Quient spoke at San Diego’s 5th Annual Human Trafficking Awareness Rally January 13, 2018, in Balboa Park. This inspiring event featured several other inspiring speakers, including San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan. This rally was one of many events happening in January, which is Human Trafficking Awareness Month.

If you missed it, CBS 8 San Diego captured highlights:

CBS News 8 – San Diego, CA News Station – KFMB Channel 8

You can read the full story on their website.

Free to Thrive Client Cleared of All Criminal Convictions

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January 11, 2018 (San Diego): San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan, San Diego County Public Defender’s Office, and Free to Thrive, a local non-profit organization that empowers survivors of human trafficking, today announced the successful use of a new law designed to clear convictions off the records of individuals who were victims of human trafficking. SB 823 passed in 2016 and provides for vacating non-violent convictions suffered by a victim of human trafficking that occurred as a direct result of their victimization. Such convictions often prevent victims of human trafficking from securing jobs, completing their education, and enrolling in programs like low-income housing. Last week, the third such a ‘vacatur petition’ was granted by a court in San Diego County. They are among the first petitions granted in the state of California.

“The best approach at giving survivors of sex trafficking a true second chance is to implement laws like this one that recognize their victimization and help them move on with their lives,” said District Attorney Summer Stephan. “The fact that these petitions are starting to be granted is an excellent example of collaboration between our office, the Public Defender, and community groups that support victims like Free to Thrive.”

One petition involved a young woman from San Diego who was trafficked by force for several years in and around San Diego County. At 16, she was lured away from her family and sexually exploited for the benefit of her traffickers. Her traffickers used narcotics as a means of coercion and control. After nearly six years of exploitation, this courageous victim finally escaped from her traffickers and began the long road of healing from the trauma she experienced. She eventually obtained her G.E.D. and went to college, where she is now on the Dean’s Honor List.

She had been convicted of felony drug and theft charges during her victimization. A vacatur petition drafted by attorneys at the non-profit Free to Thrive was submitted to the District Attorney’s Office for review and was granted on December 13 by San Diego Superior Court Judge Michael T. Smyth, Criminal Presiding Judge.

“Victims of human trafficking who were prosecuted for offenses committed while they were manipulated, controlled, and abused by their traffickers have criminal records which create barriers to employment, housing, education, and other forms of civic engagement,” said Chief Deputy Public Defender Kate Braner. “Their criminal records are a constant reminder of the trauma they suffered, and a source of continuing humiliation each time a former victim applies for a job. Fortunately, these vacatur petitions give survivors hope. San Diego County is taking the lead in California in our collaborative efforts to help survivors turn their humiliation into hope.”

“This young woman is working to move forward with her life and hit numerous roadblocks due to her criminal record. She had received numerous job offers, but each time a potential employer learned she had a criminal record the offer was rescinded,” said Jamie Quient, President and Managing Attorney of Free to Thrive. “It’s so important that we work hand in hand with community organizations, law enforcement, government agencies, and law firms to ensure human trafficking survivors can be free from exploitation and become thriving members of our community.”

During the 2015-2016 legislative session, numerous bills were introduced in support of California’s fight against human trafficking. Many of the bills that were enacted focus on protecting and assisting human trafficking survivors as they recover from their trafficking experience. SB 823 was supported by the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office, which helped draft amendments to the bill.

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Breaking Barriers for Native American Trafficking Survivors

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Too many Native American women find themselves victims of human trafficking. It’s hard to know exactly how many, however, in part because they face barriers to reporting and participating in investigations. Free to Thrive is working to alleviate some of those barriers through its free legal services work and in other ways, and more is being done by others.

Free to Thrive President and Managing Attorney Jamie Quient and her co-authors, Ted Griswold and Heather Torres, explain the challenges and opportunities regarding human trafficking and Native American communities in a new post on Procopio’s Blogging Circle site.

Free To Thrive Receives Grant From San Diego Pride

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All of us at Free To Thrive are very grateful for the support San Diego Pride has shown us, a young startup, with a generous grant. San Diego Pride is a vibrant and active 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that brings together the skills, talents and vision of our diverse community through numerous programs and grants to support the region’s LGBT population. On Thursday, December 14, the organization announced $100,000 in grants to 51 nonprofits, including Free To Thrive.

Many of the recipients of San Diego Pride’s grants have been partners with the organziation for many years, so it was an honor for Free To Thrive to join that list with a $3,200 grant. Over the next year, we will ensure that grant is applied to our efforts to aid human trafficking survivors from the LGBT population. Some members of the LGBT community can find themselves particularly vulnerable to trafficking, and don’t always find themselves with easy access to services. Free to Thrive is already providing legal and other assistance to several LGBT human trafficking survivors.

Free to Thrive Highlighted in San Diego Business Journal

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“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 nonprofit, Free to Thrive,” reported the San Diego Business Journal in its December 11, 2017 issue.

“The Business of Law” columnist Randy Frisch noted that Free to Thrive “fills an important niche in the broader battle against human trafficking” through its wide array of legal services to human trafficking survivors, including vacature efforts. You can read the full article here (subscription required).

Free to Thrive Featured on KPBS TV

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Free to Thrive President and Managing Attorney Jamie Quient was interviewed on KPBS-TV Evening Edition on Wednesday, November 15, on the work the nonprofit is doing to provide legal assistance to human trafficking victims in California.

“Helping them clear their criminal records is really about giving those individuals a fresh start, and getting them out of that life so they don’t continue to be exploited by their traffickers,” Jamie told host Ebone Monet.

The full story and interview is available on KPBS Television’s YouTube page.

San Diego Union Tribune Profiles Free to Thrive

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The launch of Free to Thrive has been profiled in a feature article in the San Diego Union Tribune. A description of our legal services and the story of its founding by Jamie Quient are highlighted in a compelling read by the newspaper’s crime and justice reporter Kristina Davis.

The article notes the hard work Jamie and others are doing to completely vacate the criminal records of human trafficking victims, but reminds the readers that the true story is that those survivors are on the path to becoming thrivers. As the article quotes Jamie: “They are why I do this work, and they inspire me every day.”