The Underprosecution of Labor Trafficking

70 Pages Posted: 4 Dec 2019 Last revised: 23 Aug 2021

See all articles by Annie Smith

Annie Smith

University of Arkansas - School of Law

Date Written: November 18, 2019


Most law enforcement efforts concerning human trafficking focus on sex trafficking. Labor trafficking remains a devastating yet under-prosecuted crime. This Article identifies causes of the ongoing failure to prosecute labor trafficking, including phenomena the Article refers to as workplace exceptionalism, the labor trafficking eclipse, and maladaptive law enforcement strategies. The Article considers critiques of a carceral approach and argues for thoughtfully increasing appropriate labor trafficking prosecutions. Informed by insights of survivors, anti-trafficking advocates, prosecutors, and scholars across disciplines, it proposes reforms to strategically increase prosecutions.

Keywords: human trafficking, labor trafficking, worker exploitation, labor exploitation, prosecutorial discretion, employment rights, law enforcement strategies, workplace exceptionalism, labor trafficking eclipse

JEL Classification: k31, k42

Suggested Citation

Smith, Annie, The Underprosecution of Labor Trafficking (November 18, 2019). 72 S.C. L. Rev. 477 (2020)., Available at SSRN:

Annie Smith (Contact Author)

University of Arkansas - School of Law ( email )

260 Waterman Hall
Fayetteville, AR 72701
United States

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