Steps, Support Needed to Start Human Trafficking Court
By Csaba Sukosd | January 30, 2020
Akron Municipal Judge Ron Cable recently joined only a few other judges in the state to have a human trafficking specialized docket certified by the Ohio Supreme Court.
He titled it RISE, which stands for Restore Individual Self-Empowerment. The January certification came at an appropriate time: during Human Trafficking Awareness Month.
"Sometimes when you start something new there are some naysayers. When I had started, honestly, I didn't really know where we were going to get services from," said Judge Cable.
This kind of Supreme Court-endorsed docket targets people who end up in the judicial system for offenses such as solicitation or drug possession, and as part of an intensive probation treats them for substance use issues, mental health problems, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
To move forward with the program after starting on the bench in 2017, Judge Cable looked to influences from the past. He was a magistrate at Summit County Juvenile Court when it started Ohio's first human trafficking court for minors in 2015. He then shadowed the state's first court dedicated to survivors in Franklin County, which began in 2009.
"I certainly didn't want to fail at this, because I know there are victims in our community," Judge Cable said.
Among the priorities for the Specialized Dockets Section of the Ohio Supreme Court in assessing a program's viability is social support. On top of providing materials on how a specialty court will function, a judge and program developers must incorporate local services that will aid program participants with legal and personal troubles as part of a holistic rehabilitation. From nothing, 20 partners now work with RISE.
"Through that partnership, I think that's where we're going to see the best results. We're going to treat a problem that is truly a community problem with a community response," said Greg Colbeck, who works for RAHAB Ministries, which is a community partner that assists human trafficking victims.
Survivors also play a role in helping the women of RISE. Angel Dague - a resident supervisor at one of RAHAB Ministries' facilities - was in and out of courtrooms for years, stuck in the cycle of substance use issues and exploitation for years. Her escape came after she was "rescued" by law enforcement, and the legal system, during a human trafficking sting in Akron more than a decade ago.
"It's bittersweet. You see a lot of people pass. You see a lot of people keep returning, but then you also see women rise up, and become everything they were built to be," Dague said.
Her face and story are familiar to the 14 women enrolled in the program. She's hopeful that her path to a better life, paired with a new avenue from RISE, can lead others to follow her on similar path to safety and sobriety.
"It's an amazing courtroom to be in," Dague said. "They really have compassion and understand better where these women are coming from."