It’s sex trafficking, not prostitution, and it’s happening here

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By Claire VanValkenburg

“Talking about human trafficking is difficult. Experiencing it is harder,” reads the campaign poster of WI, We Need to Talk, an initiative organized by the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families (DCF).

It’s a powerful ad aimed at addressing the sex trafficking epidemic occurring across Madison. According to an investigation by the Wisconsin State Journal, police have identified about 300 girls under the age of 18 who were trafficked between 2012 and 2016. Additionally, in a 2011 study on the prevalence of sex trafficking in Dane County, a pediatrician estimated 90 percent of girls at the Dane County Juvenile Detention Center had some history of sex trafficking.

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What’s come of Waukesha County’s ICE collaboration?

Credit: Joe Brusky
Four months after Waukesha County jail officers were certified to assist in immigration enforcement, immigrant rights advocates say the move has induced fear — but has also strengthened their movement.

By Natalie Yahr

Earlier this year, Waukesha County jail officers became the first local officials in Wisconsin authorized to enforce immigration laws by entering into an agreement with the federal government. The move prompted sharp criticism and massive protests, but the department has proceeded as planned, and officers completed training and certification in July. Four months in, local immigrant advocates say the fear is palpable, but so is the resistance.

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Addressing discrimination in transgender healthcare coverage in Wisconsin is a matter of trial and error

By Caysi Simpson

When Alina Boyden, a graduate student at UW-Madison, found out that her testosterone hormone levels were spiking, she had to find out why.

Boyden transitioned from male to female over 15 years ago, but for her, just like some other transgender individuals, the treatment doesn’t stop there. She still needs to take testosterone hormone inhibitors as a form of gender-affirming treatment.

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Beyond bars

By Claire VanValkenburg, Caysi Simpson, Natalie Yahr

Each year, more than two million people with serious mental illnesses are put in jail, according to NAMI. When people in the United States are released from the prison system, they must reintegrate to the outside world that doesn’t have the strict and organized structure behind bars. They might experience deep distress in the outside world, and this can be even harder with a mental illness.

According to the Urban Institute, the largest prisons or jails in the United States hold more people with a mental illness and co-occurring substance-use disorders than an actual inpatient mental health institute. OARS, otherwise known as Opening Avenues to Reentry Success, provides their program participants, all of whom have previous served, the stability, skills and support necessary to live successfully in the community, according to their website. Inmates are recommended for the program by prison staff, and they have the choice of whether to participate or not. This is a service offered at all 44 counties in Wisconsin.

Sonja Worthy is a social worker with OARS who has an in-depth look into what life is like behind bars for individuals with a mental illness. Sonja has come to see the prison system as a cycle of punishment, with the government and staff focused only on filling their jail cells. However, at all levels of society, we need to start looking at the reasons why people commit crimes in the first place, because it is often due to trauma, mental illness or external factors, according to Sonja.

OARS is a program that helps the formerly incarcerated from being re-arrested in the future. It is a program designed to prevent and not punish, according to Sonja.

For further information on this topic and more, please listen to our podcast above, “Beyond Bars.”