Human Trafficking: A Comparison of Michigan and Russia

By Hannah Bloom

In today’s modern age of smart phones and reality television one might think that the institution of slavery is nonexistent and is no longer an issue that plagues society. However, this common misconception could not be farther from the truth.[1] Modern slavery comes in all sorts of forms, one of which is human trafficking.[2] In the United States, “[h]uman trafficking is a form of modern slavery that occurs in every state.”[3] With human trafficking being an issue for every state in the U.S., what are different states doing to combat this horrific institution? This blog will look at the laws of Michigan in particular and then compare those to that of another country, like Russia.[4]

In terms of where Michigan falls in comparison to other U.S. states regarding human trafficking, our state ranks number two in the nation with only Nevada ranking higher.[5] Two theories behind why Michigan ranks so high is because of the state’s waterways and also its shared border with Canada.[6] When looking at the numbers, in Michigan for the 2016 year there were 669 calls regarding human trafficking and 190 cases reported.[7] Of the 190 cases reported, 167 of the victims were female and 23 were male.[8]  Sadly, 115 of those victims were adults and 70 were minors.[9]

To fight and prevent Michigan’s unfortunate problem with human trafficking, the state has several laws that are in place.[10] In addition, a recent 2014 legislative package was passed in hopes of strengthening Michigan’s already existing laws.[11] According to Michigan Compiled Laws (MCL), the crime of human trafficking is considered a felony and is punishable by 10 years to even life imprisonment.[12] In addition, there can be fines ranging from $10,000 to $50,000 depending upon the circumstances of the crime.[13] Under this same law, victims are also eligible for restitution.[14] This restitution can include “all costs suffered as a consequence of [the victim’s] bondage,” like medical costs, and also a restitution order that formally “recognizes the value of the years of [a victim’s] life lost due to the crime.”[15]

Michigan’s 2014 legislative package that passed strengthened the state’s already existing laws.[16] This package “included safe harbor provisions, stronger tools to hold traffickers accountable, and created a standing Human Trafficking Commission within the Department of Attorney General and a Human Trafficking Health Advisory Board within the Department of Community Health.”[17] One such safe harbor provision establishes a probate court jurisdiction specifically for minor human trafficking victims who are dependent and in danger of harm.[18] An example of one of the tools that is aimed at holding traffickers accountable is the removal of the statute of limitations in cases where trafficking punishment is life.[19] This essentially “lengthened the statute of limitations for bringing charges against traffickers.”[20]

Turning to Russia, in 2016 the U.S. ranked Russia as a tier 3 country in terms of human trafficking.[21] This means that Russia’s government does not “fully meet the minimum standards” of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) and the nation is “not making significant efforts to do so.”[22] This in comparison to a tier one country, like the U.S., whose government fully meets the TVPA minimum standards, or a tier two country whose government does not fully meet the TVPA’s minimum standards, but is making efforts to do so.[23]

When looking to Russia’s laws, articles 127.1 and 127.2 in their Criminal Code are particularly relevant as they pertain to human trafficking.[24]  According to Article 127, sex trafficking, as well as forced labor, is prohibited and punishment can be a maximum of up to 10 years imprisonment.[25] This is a significantly lighter punishment than in the U.S. where the maximum imprisonment term is life.[26] In addition, Russia does not meet the minimum standards for “the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so.”[27] For example, during a recent reporting period, the government did not have a national strategy for sex trafficking or assigned roles/responsibilities for government agencies.[28] In addition, the government did not have any funding or programs for the victims of trafficking and their rehabilitation as well as shut down several private shelters due to lack of funds and “the government’s crackdown on civil society.”[29]

Furthermore, the extremely limited data and media reports that are available both indicate that prosecutions of sex trafficking in Russia are low in comparison to the overall scope of the country’s trafficking problem.[30] For instance, in 2015 there were only 18 investigations combined under both articles 127.1 and 127.2 according to the federal-level investigative committee report.[31] The government did not provide any information about initiated prosecutions.

In conclusion, modern slavery comes in all sorts of forms, one of which is human trafficking.[32] While some countries may have laws that are seemingly more equipped to combat this terrible institution, other countries have more work to do. This blog has attempted to shed light on the laws of Michigan as well as Russia and perhaps serve, if nothing else, as a tool to open up a dialogue amongst us about the very real nature of human trafficking that is going on all around the world on a daily basis.

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[1] Infra this entire blog.

[2] Michigan, National Human Trafficking Resource Center, (last visited Nov. 3, 2016).

[3] Id.

[4] Infra this entire blog.

[5] Grace Grogan, Human Trafficking is a Real Problem in Michigan, The Times Herald, (Jan. 26, 2016).

[6] Id.

[7] National Human Trafficking Resource Center, supra note 2.

[8] Id.

[9] Id. “These statistics are non-cumulative. Cases may involve multiple victims and include males and females, foreign nationals and U.S. citizens, adults and minors. In some cases, callers do not provide demographic information.”

[10] See MCL 750.462(a)-(i).

[11] Human Trafficking Laws, State of Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette,,4534,7-164-60857_60859---,00.html (last visited Nov. 5, 2016).

[12] MCL 750.462(a)-(i); Human Trafficking Laws supra note 11.

[13] Id.

[14] Id.

[15] Human Trafficking Laws, supra note 11.

[16] See id.

[17] Id.

[18] 2014 PA 342 amends MCL 712A.2

[19] 2014 PA 324 [SB 584] amends MCL 767.24 (Theresa Flores Law).

[20] Human Trafficking Laws, supra note 11.

[21] Tier Placements, U.S. Dept. of State (last visited Nov. 6, 2016).

[22] Id.

[23] Id.

[24] Russia’s Crim. Code 127.1 and 127.2.

[25] Trafficking in Persons Report 2016, U.S. Dept. of State-Russia, 317,

[26] MCL 750.462(a)-(i); Human Trafficking Laws supra note 11.

[27] Trafficking in Persons Report 2016 supra note 25 at 316.

[28] Id.

[29] Id.

[30] Id.

[31] Id. at 317.

[32] Michigan supra note 2.