Judge Kim Chaney on relationship between drugs and human trafficking

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Cullman County District Judge Kim Chaney (W.C. Mann for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN – In many cases of human trafficking and illegal sex trade across the country, alcohol and drugs have become the currency, both to recruit victims and to pay for services, leading to increasing connection of the two issues in the law and in court systems. 

Cullman County District Judge Kim Chaney explained, “The human trafficking statute now encompasses the swapping of drugs for sex, which is what we see now.  It happens a lot; we have a lot of situations where boyfriends pimp out their girlfriends or significant others in exchange for drugs.  We have girls who are trading sex for drugs. There are cases where parents are selling their children for drugs. So, anything of any value they swap to access drugs.  It’s all connected to the opioid and methamphetamine addictions that we have in this county. So the sex trade is involved as a collateral issue with the drug usage.”

According to the Denver, Colorado-based Human Trafficking Center, drugs are also commonly used to recruit victims into trafficking, by giving victims addictive drugs to get them hooked and then subjecting them to the sex trade or forced labor in exchange for a continuing supply.

In one of Cullman County’s three current human trafficking cases, defendant Kenneth Loyd Woods was alleged to have supplied alcohol and drugs to underage students at Fairview High School, then demanded payment from them in the form of sex acts.  

Cullman’s drug court

Chaney, who has previously served as president of the Alabama Drug Court Association, will be attending a state conference at Orange Beach next week to represent Cullman County’s drug court, whose deferral program has a 65 percent success rate with convicted non-violent felony drug offenders.

“We’ve been running a successful drug court here in Cullman County for many years, where people come who are charged with drugs to stay sober, work through their program for a year, and if they’re successful, their case is dismissed.  They’re subjected to random drug screens seven days a week. They have to work. They have to pay for their program.”

Cullman County has a family court for youthful drug offenders, and an adult drug court for those of age.  Under the leadership of Circuit Court Judge Gregory Nicholas and District Court Judge Rusty Turner, a new veterans’ court is set to begin in April 2019.  Each one is designed to help people in specific circumstances and with specific backgrounds, where a one-size-fits-all program may not work.

Drug court officials learn to spot trafficking

As Cullman County’s court officials deal with drug offenders, they are learning how to spot the signs of human trafficking and respond accordingly.

Said Chaney, “On the adult side, the drug court side, we’ve been trained now through the human trafficking part, to make sure that there’s not any exploitation of women for the acquisition of drug use.  And I think the more we learn about this side of it, the human trafficking side, it bleeds over into the drug use side.

“Drug court judges now are being trained to make sure to ask the appropriate questions and to make appropriate observations, to make sure that we understand the dynamics of everything that’s going on in the court.”

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