• supremecourtresized

    Trafficking victims have rights guaranteed under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act and the National Crime Victims' Rights Act,
    including the right to seek civil damages in U.S. federal courts.

  • Woman_ironing

    Federal prosecutors have brought criminal cases across the United States alleging trafficking of domestic workers into forced labor.
    Pro bono litigators have brought civil trafficking cases, obtaining awards for victims.

  • Ag_Worker_Hat

    The International Labor Organization estimates that 20.9 million people are held in forced labor and servitude around the world.
    Yet prosecutors brought only 7,705 cases in the entire world in 2012.

  • bricklayer

    Trafficking occurs in all labor sectors, including construction. In 2013, federal prosecutors in Ohio indicted the owner of a roofing
    company for allegedly trafficking workers from Mexico into forced labor. The defendant pled guilty to fraud charges.

  • Girl_alone_by_wall

    In 2011, federal prosecutors brought 125 criminal trafficking cases total, including 101 for sex trafficking of adults and children.

  • nurse_400x1000px

    The U.S. Attorney's Office in Denver recently obtained guilty verdicts in a trafficking scheme to bring nurses to the United States for
    forced labor. The court ordered the two defendants to pay $3.7 million in restitution to the victims.

  • un_flags_400x1000

    Diplomats and international organization officials have faced criminal and civil charges for trafficking and exploitation of domestic
    workers in the United States. In one civil case brought in federal court, a trafficking survivor obtained a $1 million verdict against
    a diplomat.



“I feel like the powerful people are on my side now.”

—Trafficking Survivor, referred by HT Pro Bono

The Human Trafficking Pro Bono Legal Center (HT Pro Bono) trains talented pro bono attorneys to represent trafficking victims in the United States.  It makes referrals on a case-by-case basis, providing mentoring and extensive technical assistance for complex civil, immigration, and criminal cases. HT Pro Bono attorneys monitor the developing case law, focusing on impact litigation in the federal courts. HT Pro Bono also conducts research and maintains a comprehensive database on federal civil trafficking cases. It works in concert with other groups to promote policy reform that will end the scourge of trafficking.

In the ten years since Congress created a civil remedy, trafficking victims have filed just 149 cases. Pro bono attorneys give victims the chance to hold traffickers accountable, gain restitution, and reclaim their lives. 

New report released on human trafficking and mandatory criminal restitution in federal cases.

United States law guarantees trafficking victims mandatory criminal restitution. But a new report co-published by The Human Trafficking Pro Bono Legal Center and the law firm of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP shows that the justice system is failing to provide legally-required restitution to victims in nearly two-thirds of cases.

“When ‘Mandatory’ Does Not Mean Mandatory: Failure to Obtain Criminal Restitution in Federal Prosecution of Human Trafficking,” provides in-depth analysis of federal criminal trafficking indictments brought between 2009 and 2012.*

The four years of case data revealed significant patterns. A key determinant of whether restitution would be ordered was, simply, whether the prosecutor requested it. Researchers also found major discrepancies between trafficking cases into the sex industry and trafficking into other labor sectors. The average restitution order in sex trafficking cases was just $46,211.66, while the average restitution order in forced labor cases was $213,939.21. And, most surprising, victims of labor trafficking were substantially more likely to obtain restitution than those held in sex trafficking.

The report outlines three model cases in which prosecutors successfully maximized criminal restitution for victims. In each of these cases, excellent, well-trained federal prosecutors vigorously pursued restitution. The victims also had outside pro bono legal counsel who advocated for their clients’ rights under the federal restitution statute, 18 USC §1593.

*The research close-date was February 1, 2014. Cases still open on that date were not included in the research findings.

Click here to read report:

Victims in need of assistance should contact:
The National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline at 1-888-373-7888.