While researching his book, A Crime So Monstrous: Face-to-Face with Modern-Day Slavery, Benjamin Skinner learned how easy it is to buy a human being today. In an interview with Anthony Brooks for NPR he played some of the meetings he had taped in during his research.
Skinner: Would it be possible… how quickly do you think it would be possible to bring a child in? Somebody who could clean, somebody I’d give a place to stay–I’d take care of food and a place to stay. But I’m wondering how much that would cost.
Woman: For him to go out and find someone to do that? … That would be a hundred US.
Skinner: [shocked] A hundred US?
Woman: [laughing] Which is 800 Haitian.
“The thing that struck me more than anything afterwards,” says Skinner in the same interview, “was how incredibly banal the whole transaction was. It was as if I was negotiating on the street for a used stereo. We agreed to a price of 50 dollars but I told him not to make any moves. I had a principle throughout this book whenever I was talking to traffickers that I would not pay for human life and I didn’t.”
Skinner’s book echoes what my book, the books of Kevin Bales and many others are saying: slavery is not over.
“In 1850, a slave would cost roughly $30,000 to $40,000,” says Skinner. “In other words, it would have been like investing in a Mercedes. Today you can go to Haiti and you can buy a 9-year-old girl to use as a sexual and a domestic slave for $50. The devaluation of human life is incredibly pronounced.”
He also found that according to estimates, traffickers today bring more slaves into the US than slave traders transported into pre-independence America.
“The minimum numbers we’re talking here,” Skinner adds, “and these are Justice Department, State Department estimates–are between 14,500 and 17,500 every year. What that is essentially is every half hour another person becomes a slave in the United States.”