I-Team: Sex Traffickers Recruit Women In Prison Promising Home And Money After Release

April 13, 2022

OCALA, Fla. — In the world of human trafficking, victims, sold for sex, are not always identified as victims. Instead, they are often arrested.

That’s something Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd acknowledged after a number of women were arrested in a sting operation.

“We know some of these ladies we arrested for prostitution denied being victims. However, there will be follow up by this wonderful team of folks because we know some of them are victims. That would not admit to being a victim,” Judd said, referencing a team of anti-human trafficking nonprofits that work with survivors.

Misty LaPerriere, a law enforcement liaison for Selah Freedom, said the path to identifying as a victim is rarely a straight shot.

“Sometimes it takes 8 to 10 points of contact before somebody is ready to get help and get out of ‘the life,’” she said.

There are women currently serving time in state prison for crimes committed while they were victims of sex trafficking — a reality the Florida Department of Corrections is now addressing, through new efforts to connect survivors with legal services and safe housing upon their release.

The Florida Women’s Reception Center, a state prison in Ocala, has an inmate capacity listed as 1,235. The I-Team met roughly 100 at a re-entry event. This event is for prisoners with less than a year left on their sentences. Statistics show three out of four women will be back.

Read the full story by Kylie McGivern on ABC Action News.