157 – Using your Expertise as a Volunteer: An Interview with Attorney Jessica Springer

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Jessica Springer joins Dr. Sandie Morgan and Dave Stachowiak to talk about dual-jurisdiction children (part of the criminal justice system and the dependency system like foster homes) and how judges aren’t able to make good decisions if they don’t know the child’s full background. They also talk about current and upcoming human trafficking bills in California.

Key Points

  • The majority of children involved in human trafficking come from a dual-jurisdiction population.
  • Family violence is often the root of kids becoming dual-jurisdiction.
  • The majority of children who get involved in human trafficking have a history of sexual abuse.
  • When judges look at cases and don’t know the whole background, they can’t make well-informed decisions.
  • There is a debate on whether it is better to have more legislation or to have less, but more effective legislation.
  • Internet safety training is important, even at a young age.
  • 80% of sexual trafficking recruiting happens online.


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Dave: [00:00:00] You’re listening to the Ending Human Trafficking podcast. This is episode number 157, Using Your Expertise as a Volunteer – An Interview with Attorney Jessica Springer.

Production Credits: [00:00:11] Produced by Innovate Learning, maximizing human potential.

Dave: [00:00:31] Welcome to the Ending Human Trafficking podcast. My name is Dave Stachowiak.

Sandie: [00:00:37] And my name is Sandie Morgan.

Dave: [00:00:39] And this is the show where we empower you to study the issues, be a voice, and make a difference in ending human trafficking. Sandie, I’m glad to be back with you. Many times, when we get together for these conversations, you have someone in mind as a guest who is just fabulous on expertise. And today is no different, and in our pre-conversation before this interview, I can just tell there is so much we’re going to learn. So, I’m really excited to be able to introduce Jessica Springer to our audience. She is a graduate of California State University Fullerton Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts degrees in both psychology and criminal justice. She obtained her Juris Doctor degree from the University of San Diego School of Law, and during law school, she worked at the San Diego district attorney’s office and later started her own family practice here in Orange County. She is a member of the worker’s compensation section of the State Bar in the Orange County Bar Association. She is bilingual in English and Farsi and is very active in her community serving as a member of the Orange County Bar’s Community Outreach Committee. She’s a busy lawyer with a profound interest in children’s rights, is a member of the Orange County CSEC Steering Committee and is the chair of the Orange County Association’s Human Trafficking Task Force. Jessica, we’re so glad to welcome you to the Ending Human Trafficking podcast.

Jessica: [00:02:05] Thank you, I’m happy to be here.

Sandie: [00:02:07] I’m excited to interview you today Jessica because when I first met you it was because you were volunteering at a summit that we were helping judge Maria Hernandez do. And since then we’ve become good friends. I love to have younger professionals in my life that mentor me as I have the opportunity to speak into your life. So, it’s just a real honor to have a colleague and a friend on the podcast.

Jessica: [00:02:39] Thank you, Dr. Morgan. I think you’re giving me way too much credit, to be honest. I really look up to people like you who kind of paved the way for the younger generation. So, I’m just happy to be here and thank you so much for having me.

Sandie: [00:02:52] So tell a little bit about how you got involved in combating human trafficking. So, the way I got involved was actually a little bit strange. My focus in law school was actually on the dual jurisdiction population. And what that is, I’ll explain that a little bit, when a child gets involved in both the criminal justice system and the dependency system in California. So, they’re either part of the foster system as a dependent, meaning they don’t have a home or a family, and then they also are committing crimes whether it’s a status offense because of their age. So, for examples like smoking, or curfew, or truancy or they actually commit a crime that would be a crime as an adult like burglary or you know robbery or something. So, I was really interested in that population. I did a white paper on it and as I graduated, I started looking for volunteer opportunities, I saw and learned that the majority of the kids that are involved in human trafficking come from this dual jurisdiction population. So, it was only natural for me to say wow this is a big issue for the population that I want to serve. And that’s kind of how I got involved.

Sandie: [00:04:04] Oh I love that story. That’s great. And one of the things that I’ve watched in seeing how you engage the community is you don’t only go to human trafficking events, but you support educating the community about family violence because that’s often the root of kids becoming dual jurisdiction. Right?

Jessica: [00:04:26] That is absolutely correct. I hate to throw out statistics, so I’m just going to say the majority, but we all know that the majority of these young adults and children that get involved in human trafficking have some form of sexual violence, sexual abuse, physical abuse, mental abuse and it usually starts when their children and in the home. So, you’re absolutely correct. It starts as a family unit, and we’ve got to keep that strong in order to prevent not only the crime of human trafficking but also the vulnerability of the kids in that population.

Sandie: [00:05:00] Well and besides doing things on the front line. Well like with the O.C. Bar Associations Human Trafficking Taskforce you also are working from the other side of things as a youth mentor and in the Orangewood Children’s Center, they’re an independent living program. So, you are really a great example of somebody who is approaching this from a very holistic expert position. So, let’s jump into telling us about the O.C. Bar Association antihuman trafficking task force.

Jessica: [00:05:35] Sure. It is actually a new task force, we began it this year. And basically, what it is, is I got a whole bunch of judges and lawyers in Orange County to commit some of their free time, which we all know they are very busy so hats off to everybody that volunteered, to be part of the task force. And we kind of decided that we wanted to focus on education, awareness, and do a little bit of donation gathering for the victims and survivors. So, we basically formed a task force and we went out to different sections. There are different sections in the Orange County Bar, so whether you’re a family law lawyer, whether you’re a criminal lawyer, whether you’re a probate lawyer you have special sections in the association. And we went out to all those groups and we basically did a 15-minute presentation on what the issue is as far as human trafficking is concerned. And we said hey this is happening in our own backyards, we need to focus on this because at this point not very many people knew that this was even an issue. And when you have powerful judges and lawyers that are basically making decisions on these cases, if they don’t have a background on what the underlying issues are these red flags will just go right by them. So, we wanted to really get out there and educate and bring awareness to the Orange County Bar Association and that’s what we did.

Sandie: [00:06:56] That’s fantastic. I’m looking forward to seeing some of the impacts on our criminal justice system right here in Orange County over the next few years because of that initiative. When we start talking about the criminal justice system. We also have to look at how we pass legislation and most people know, we’ve talked before about the basic California trafficking legislation that sort of followed the same format as our federal laws. But since then there have been several initiatives and can you kind of summarize how California has proceeded in fighting human trafficking with legislation.

Jessica: [00:07:40] You know it’s funny that you say that, I can try but there is so much legislation out there. Which you know there is a debate, is it good? Is it better to have more legislation or is it better to have less but yet actually effective legislation? So, in California right now we have 23 bills that are either pending, or in committee, or have just passed and been chaptered.

Sandie: [00:08:02] 23 right now? That’s overwhelming.

Jessica: [00:08:05] Right now, correct. And to be honest with you, there might be more that I don’t even know about but there are at least 23, which is a lot of legislation. So, I want to just go over a couple of them that have actually already been chaptered. And what that means is that the secretary of state has already passed through both houses of the legislator and now the governor has signed the law, so it’s actually going to be implemented. The two of them that I want to talk about, the first one is the Vehicles Impoundment and Pilot program, it’s AB-1206. It was just chaptered, and basically what it says is that Los Angeles County, Oakland, Sacramento can have a 24-month pilot program where law enforcement can remove vehicles that were involved in the commission or attempted commission of either pimping, pandering, solicitation of prostitution, or human trafficking. Which for me is huge because a vehicle is pretty much used in every single human trafficking case because the minors or the young adults have to get from one place to another. They’re usually driven from hotels back and forth. And oftentimes when criminals get prosecuted for these crimes they don’t end up getting their vehicle impounded, and where does that vehicle go? That money could be used to put into the victim’s fund, it could be used as restitution for the money that was never given to the survivors or with the victims. So, this has already passed. Unfortunately, it’s only a pilot program but we have to start somewhere. So, I think this is a great program that will really benefit the victims and the survivors, which is really what we are aiming to do.

Sandie: [00:10:00] So if I understand correctly then, the sex purchaser’s car could also be impounded?

Jessica: [00:10:06] Correct. Yes, so even if it’s an attempt and there was no finalized act, as long as there’s an attempt of a commission of it then yes.

Sandie: [00:10:16] Wow. Oh, that I can see how that could really help with the budgets that are so weak in addressing all the restoration needs when victims are recovered. So that’s great. OK. Tell us about the next one.

Jessica: [00:10:30] OK. The next one is the Human Trafficking Prevention Education and Training Act, which is AB-1227. This one was also chaptered, so it will become law. And basically, what it is, is the California Healthy Youth Act requires that all school districts from grades 7 to 12 give comprehensive sex help education, human trafficking education, and HIV, which is very interesting to include that into this bill, but HIV training as well and education. So, they will learn about sexual harassment, sexual assault, adolescent relationships, abuse, intimate partner violence, and as I said sex trafficking. And so, this again is huge because you know a lot of people say well wow why are we teaching our kids you know in seventh grade which I believe there are 13 years old. But in the end, you know we can’t prevent children and kids from seeing certain things on the Internet or being on the Internet. So, we have to just move forward and say OK you know what they are going to see this, they are going to be exposed to this, now let’s educate them on this. And I think that this bill is going to do that, and I think it’s going to be huge as far as awareness and education are concerned because these are the kids that are going to be targeted as victims. It’s this age group.

Sandie: [00:11:58] Let me ask a question about this. Some of the school districts have already started programs to do this. They were trying to be geared up ready to respond. But at this time if the parents say they don’t have to, they don’t want them to go, they don’t. Will this law mandate it, so every child receives this education?

Jessica: [00:12:20] Yes it will. Because if there’s a school district it’s going to be required to. You know it’s kind of like if you remember way back in the day how sex education was a big deal. And there was a lot of parents that were like I don’t know if I want my child to be learning about this, but eventually, it became a requirement and mandated. It’s the same thing. And I will say one more thing, the Capistrano school district has actually already implemented Internet safety and education for their kindergartners. You have 5 and 6-year-olds learning about Internet safety. Now they’re not getting into you know the graphic sexual assault and the human trafficking, they’re not getting into that depth at age 5 and 6. But they’re learning how to navigate the Internet, they’re learning internet safety tactics. And I think that is great because like I said as much as we don’t want our kids at 5 and 6 being on the Internet, they’re going to be exposed to it. So now we need to learn how to try to protect them.

Sandie: [00:13:20] And we know from law enforcement that they’ve told us about 80 percent of recruiting happens online. And you can go back and listen to the podcast Brittney’s story, I’ll find the number for you and we’ll put that in the show notes. And in Britney’s case, she was recruited online in Chicago and was sent an airplane ticket to fly to L.A.X. to be met by the trafficker. And do you want to know how old she was? 12. We have to do prevention much earlier.

Jessica: [00:13:57] And like I said I commend the Capistrano school district because that’s not an easy thing to do to try to convince parents that hey this is what we’re doing and it’s going to be at this age. I can see how that could be difficult. But you have to have pioneers in this area. You have to have people that are willing to take a chance that is willing to think outside the box. And hats off to them.

Sandie: [00:14:18] So OK. You had one more that you were going to talk about.

Jessica: [00:14:22] Yeah, I was going to talk about the one that hasn’t actually been passed yet. So, it is a two-year bill. So, there’s still like kinks being worked out, but it’s the Human Trafficking Recognition and Reporting and Training for Hotels and Motels, which is SB-270. This is also a huge bill that my fingers are crossed that it gets passed because again as we know a lot of the human trafficking crimes occur in hotels and motels. And basically, what this is going to do, it’s going to require that all hotels and motels provide training, awareness, information on the law, and red flags on how to spot human trafficking and certain things that they need to be looking for. Again, huge because like I said you can go pretty much into any facts of a human trafficking case and see that a hotel or motel was used at some point, whether they’re just meeting their or they’re actually using the hotel room. If all of the staff have their eyes open and they can see, then it would be a lot easier to prevent. I kind of like it to, you know you buy a Honda Civic or you buy a certain car and you’re like I don’t normally see those cars on the road but then when you start looking for them all of a sudden you see hundreds of them.

Sandie: [00:15:40] Yes, that’s right. There have been movements to include the hospitality industry in frontline efforts against human trafficking and one of the results was the code. And big hotels, name brands that people would recognize but I’m not going to open that on this podcast’s released press releases that said we signed the code. But then on an implementation level, we began to understand locally that a hotel may have a name brand on the front door, but they’re actually a franchise and the person who owns that didn’t sign the code and is resistant to getting involved. And we’ve talked before about the complications that hotels face in responding, calling the police, and those sorts of things. So, I’m very hopeful in watching how this bill proceeds.

Jessica: [00:16:43] Yeah, likewise. And they would require whether you are a privately owned or a franchise or it wouldn’t matter. It doesn’t differentiate within the bill on ownership, or how they will go about how many hotels you have, or where it’s located. If you are a hotel or motel you are required to give training to your staff. And that’s everybody, not just front desk, not just management, but everybody from maintenance to housekeeping to the cook. It will be required.

Sandie: [00:17:18] Right. Anything else on the horizon?

Jessica: [00:17:22] There are so many, to be honest with you I could spend hours. But those are the ones I think that are the most important for right now. But you know like I said I wouldn’t be surprised if more and more legislation gets passed. But again, is that really the best response to fighting human trafficking? If it’s effective, yes. But if it’s not, maybe we might want to focus you know maybe less is more as long as we can make sure that it works.

Sandie: [00:17:55] So what do you see right now that’s really missing in legislation that would help our communities do a better job?

Jessica: [00:18:04] I personally think that housing for victims and survivors is very important. And I think that the restrictions and regulations may be a little heavy, especially for minor children. At this point, a lot of these victims that are minor children they don’t have anywhere to go. We can try to give them as much encouragement and try to save them. But at the end of the day, if we can’t provide housing for them, that’s a big issue. I think that legislation needs to be tailored maybe a little bit less strict.

Sandie: [00:18:42] What do you mean less strict on what?

Jessica: [00:18:45] Well there’s a lot of specific requirements that need to be met. I mean I just was at a CSEC meeting a month ago and they gave me a like 30-page notebook on all the rules and regulations and requirements that housing would need to implement in order for them to even begin trying to implement housing for the kids. There’s just so much restriction. I mean specifically I can’t get into the details, but it’s making it harder to provide the services that are needed to these kids. With young adults, it’s a little less strict, but with minor children, there’s just a lot of rules. And again, for example, I’ll give you one example, when you have a house that is going to house minor children that have survived or been victims of human trafficking it’s known that survivors are in the best position to relate to these kids because they’ve been there, they know what it’s like. And a lot of them end up having you know different criminal backgrounds because of certain situations placed in. And can you house minor children with a person with a criminal background? The answer is No. And you have to have so many waivers and so many applications and so many things that need to be passed in order for that to happen. Now I’m not saying it’s impossible but maybe we can carve out an exception to make it easier. You know what I’m saying?

Sandie: [00:20:23] It’s so counter to the group thinking that we have that survivor lead survivor informed is best practice and yet then we can’t qualify the survivors to work with the most vulnerable.

Jessica: [00:20:38] Exactly. And that’s just one example. But I am telling you there was literally like 30 pages of rules and regulations. And I’m like How do you expect anybody I mean if you’re not 100%, even if you are a hundred percent committed and you see that it’s overbearing. You know it’s very overbearing in a lot of the people that maybe have the money that wants to do it think this is too much and I’m not going to be able to satisfy A, B, and C. So why even bother. And it’s like we’re deterring people from moving forward because it’s such strict and overbearing regulations.

Sandie: [00:21:16] Well and I just remember back when I was the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force administrator and I received so many calls offering a place. And the idea was oh we don’t have a place, well my aunt Susie died, and I would love to use this six-bedroom, ranch style home as residential care for minors and then finding out that just having a place is not enough. The most important ingredient is funding for the professional staff, for the people that can meet all those guidelines. Let’s look at my big question. I told you ahead of time that I am just so frustrated with legislation. Right now, you said there’s like 23 that you know of bills just here in California and I know in other states it would be almost impossible to try to identify all of the legislation. And there’s a sense that any politician that wants to move forward really needs to be seen as a champion on this issue. And so, it’s very easy to get everybody to agree and pass something but thinking through like we passed as a state, 81 percent of Californians voted for the Case Act to make minors not be able to be arrested. And yet we passed this feel-good legislation, 81 percent of California voters. But there was no sustainable funding attached to that. And so even though we don’t arrest victims, we don’t have a safe place. You just mentioned, no housing. So, funding has to become part of that. How can we change that with our legislators?

Jessica: [00:23:14] I think that’s a great question. I will say that unfortunately in the political arena it’s oftentimes who gets there first, n3ot who does it best. And that’s really unfortunate because the only people that really suffer are the people that the legislation is supposed to be helping. So that’s the first thing. The second thing is I really think we might want to start looking at re-allocation of resources and funds that we have and putting it to better use. I think that’s going to be the main key because we’re always going to be short on money and we’re always going to be able to need more money. But we have money, it’s not like we are poor in California. And I’m just speaking on California’s behalf, I’m not sure about other states. But with us, I really think we need to take a look at where the money is going and where we can use it better. That’s I think is way more important than trying to generate more funds because really the only way you generate more funds is by more taxes or by private donations, which has nothing to do with legislation. So, the reallocation I think is huge because there’s a lot of wasted money out there and I know we can do a better job. You can always implement certain checks and balances, which is also a great tactic. Like OK you know this is the legislation we’re passing and in two years we’re going to look and see how well we are doing, what is needed, what isn’t needed, where can we spend our money better. You could always do it like that too. But in the end, everybody has the best intentions when they’re passing legislation. I don’t think that they think far enough in advance to see how it is practically going to work. And it kind of goes back to the restrictions and regulations of the housing. Yeah, you want to keep these kids safe, we get it. But as a practical matter, is this really practical? Can we really do it? Sometimes legislators are so attenuated from the real world. And I’m not badmouthing, that’s just the way it is. They have their own world where they are writing legislation and passing it, but wording and legislation is a lot different than it actually translating to the real world and realistically of what’s practical and what can be done. So yeah that’s what I would say.

Sandie: [00:25:37] So as we kind of wrap up here. Tell me what legislation, if you were writing a bill what would be the three big pieces of that bill? Well in California we’re lucky, so I’m going to go back, I’ll say a couple of things. In California, we’re lucky because we have a dual jurisdiction. I mean Orange County we have a dual jurisdiction law, so we actually here look at the entire case of every minor child that comes into the juvenile justice system. We look at their dependency, their delinquency, their education, we look at everything. But that’s not like that throughout the entire state. Some counties still bifurcate the child’s case. So, a child can be in criminal court and had a truancy on their record, and that judge has no idea what’s going on in that child’s private life. Is she a foster kid? Where is she coming from? Why isn’t she going to school? So, I think dual jurisdiction legislation is important to allow every county to share information about each child so that they have a holistic view of what’s going on in this child’s life. Not only that, but it will allow these children to have benefited from both systems, which is also huge for rehabilitation and then also for the dependency side as well. So that would be the first thing that I would do. The second thing would be the housing. I would redo all of the housing legislation and put people in there in the room that have experience with this issue. Again, a survivor’s voice is the most important voice, they know what works, they know what doesn’t work. And then the third thing would be to look at like I said, the budget. Look at reallocation of resources maybe say hey you know this piece of financial assistance that we’re getting or resources that we have can be better used for x, y, and z. Or you have to use a certain amount of that money for x, y, and z. That would also be something that I would look at.

Sandie: [00:27:43] Well I hope you get a chance to write your dream legislation. Jessica, you’ve been a delightful interview today and I’m so excited. I can hear the passion in your voice and you’re an outstanding community volunteer. One of the things I wrote down as you were talking at the beginning, is that you’re a volunteer who recruits volunteers, you get other people to join you. And that is how we’re going to actually make a difference in our community. So, thank you so much for being on the show today.

Jessica: [00:28:17] It is my pleasure. Thank you.

Dave: [00:28:19] Thank you, Jessica. And Sandie, gosh there’s so much here. We’re just scratching the surface in this conversation. It’s just a reminder that there’s so much to learn and it’s why we zero in on studying the issues so we can ultimately be a voice and make a difference. If you found today’s conversation helpful, I hope you’ll take a moment to go over to check out the notes and the resources we mentioned on the website. You can reach our website at endinghumantrafficking.org. If you haven’t been to the website, and that is a new website at endinghumantrafficking.org. That’s where you’ll find all the notes for this episode, and just as importantly the entire library of episodes over the last six years that we’ve aired covering many of these topics around human trafficking. And when you’re on the website, I’d encourage you to take a moment on the very front page of that site, you’ll see our tagline there study the issues, be a voice, and make a difference. And there’s a place where you can submit your name and e-mail address. We would love to keep you in the loop in detail on what Sandie is doing, her writing and her work. And so that we can continue to keep the conversation going between episodes. And Sandie, we will be back again in two weeks with our next episode.

Sandie: [00:29:32] Thank you, Dave.

Dave: [00:29:34] Thanks, Sandie. See everyone in two weeks, take care.

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