In Louisiana, United States, 39-year-old Darnell Fulton was accused of sex trafficking and forced labor of three of his stepchildren. Fulton reportedly used violence, including waterboarding and sexual abuse, intimidation and withholding of food to force his stepchildren to work for him.
For three years, his stepchildren, all under the age of 16 were made to make and sell brownies seven days a week, often having to work late into the night. If Fulton wasn’t happy with their “work performance”, he would whip or waterboard them.
One survivor recalled watching the skin peel off her 12-year-old brother after having microwaved water poured on him.
Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke, of the DoJ’s civil rights division, said: “Forced labor, especially when it involves sexual abuse of children, violence, and mental and physical anguish, is heinous conduct that has no place in our society today. The defendant mercilessly exploited children for his own financial gain and personal gratification, and we will not tolerate it.
This sentence demonstrates the Justice Department’s commitment to standing up for the survivors of forced labor schemes. We will not only pursue and prosecute human and child traffickers, but also seek restitution and use those funds to help survivors rebuild and reclaim their lives.”
While the U.S. government comes down harshly in some cases of forced child labor, in others, they are facilitating the practice with legal loopholes. For example, it is legal in the U.S. for children as young as 12 to work unlimited hours outside of school with parental approval if they’re working in agriculture. There are currently around 500,000 children who work in agriculture, planting, picking, and packaging crops.
“A duty to protect the most vulnerable of our society”
Fulton was sentenced to 35 years for crimes including conspiracy to commit forced labor.
U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Louisiana, Brandon B. Brown, told the court that, “Forced labor is a form of modern day slavery and we have a duty to protect the most vulnerable of our society.”
The Freedom United community agrees and we’re concerned about the current trend in the U.S. regarding child labor. Despite a reported surge in child labor exploitation in the U.S., some lawmakers are attempting to further erode the minimal child labor protections that currently exist. This increases the vulnerability of child workers and the likelihood of child trafficking occurring.