Book Review: Human trafficking in the Midwest: A case study of the St. Louis and the bi-state area

AuthorCarly M. Hilinski-Rosick
Published date01 December 2019
Date01 December 2019
Subject MatterBook Reviews
Book Reviews
Book Reviews
Heil, E. C., & Nichols, A. J. (2015).
Human trafficking in the Midwest: A case study of the St. Louis and the bi-state area. Durham, NC: Carolina Academic
Press. 234 pp. $28.00, ISBN 978-0-520-28279-7.
Reviewed by: Carly M. Hilinski-Rosick, University of Tampa, Tampa, FL, USA
DOI: 10.1177/0734016815610628
Erin Heil and Andrea Nichols take on a timely topic in their study of human trafficking in the Mid-
west. They focus on St. Louis and the bi-state area (Illinois and Missouri) to examine labor and sex
trafficking. Additionally, they discuss the challenges associated with the policing human trafficking
as well as the social services available to trafficking victims. Both Heil and Nichols have extensive
experience researching human trafficking. Heil regularly participates in human trafficking confer-
ences, public forums, and training events and Nichols focuses on practitioner-oriented research,
making them uniquely experienced to approach this topic.
To examine human trafficking, Heil and Nichols interviewed 31 respondents, consisting of vic-
tims, criminal justice system professionals, and social service providers. The criminal justice system
professionals and social service providers represent 16 different organizations from St. Louis and the
bi-state area under study, ranging from law enforcement organizations, legal services, the U.S.
Attorney’s Office, and various social service organizations, including rescue organizations and shel-
ters. Their research offers a new perspective on human trafficking by examining it from a multidis-
ciplinary perspective of sociology, criminology, and political science. Further, while many studies
focus on sex trafficking only, they include labor trafficking, which is another pervasive, but misun-
derstood, problem in the area.
The introduction contains an extensive, and necessary, discussion of the definitions of trafficking.
As Heil and Nichols assert, there is not one universally accepted definition of trafficking. Each state
and the federal government vary in their definitions of trafficking, thus they allowed for case-by-
case interpretation by the interviewees in defining human trafficking. The authors also discuss the
terms used to describe those who have experienced trafficking, discussing the merits of referring to
them as ‘‘victims’’ or ‘‘survivors’’ (and ultimately using those terms interchangeably) as well as the
term ‘‘modern-day slavery.’’ They correctly identify the use of the term modern-day slavery to
describe human trafficking as controversial, debated by academic and policy makers. Further, the
authors themselves have differing views of the use of this term. Their discussion of each of their
views on using modern-day slavery to describe human trafficking is a bit problematic, and the back
and forth leaves the reader unclear on where either of them stand on the issue.
In each of the seven chapters, the authors use the words from victims, criminal justice system
officials, and social service providers to illustrate the issues surrounding human trafficking. The first
type of trafficking that is explored is labor trafficking. As Heil and Nichols explain, labor trafficking
is often misunderstood and misidentified. Through their interviews, they learned that labor traffick-
ing is not actively being investigated by police, that policy makers are not considering labor
Criminal Justice Review
2019, Vol. 44(4) 537-544
ª2015 Georgia State University
Article reuse guidelines:

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT