Ashland Slavery Case: Modern-Day Slavery is Alive and Well in the U.S.

Just as Ariel Castro, alleged kidnapper and murderer, pled not guilty in a Cleveland courthouse, another chilling case from the state is coming to light.

Ashland, Ohio residents Jodie Callahan, 26, Jessica Hunt, 31, and Daniel Brown, 33, were accused today of horrific acts of forced labor involving an allegedly disabled women. Callahan is additionally charged with tampering with a witness. The case is being labelled one of "modern day slavery."

The investigation began last October when the woman stole a small item to force an arrest. She was taken to jail, and began to hint at her predicament. Only recently, however, was she able to fully escape and hold the man accountable as the details came to light.

The U.S. Attorney's office reports the accused residents forced the victim and her child to live with them in Hunt's two-bedroom apartment for two years, forcing the woman to clean the house, do laundry, do shopping, and — allegedly — threatening her with their pit bull dogs and reptiles, at times locking her and her daughter alone with dangerous animals. The case is a particularly appalling one of forced labor, as the victim reportedly has a cognitive disability. Hunt allegedly seized the woman's government benefits and routinely beat her while depriving her of her medications.   

The U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Ohio remarked the case yet again "reminds us that modern-day slavery exists all around us."

"These defendants violated the victim's most basic civil right — freedom — by exploiting her most basic instinct — the protection of her child," said Stephen Anthony, an FBI agent in charge of the Cleveland office.

"The streets are a lot safer with these folks locked up," Ashland Police Chief David Marcelli said, stating that the FBI and U.S. Attorney's Office cooperated in the successful arrest of the suspects. 

Labor trafficking in the United States is an issue that is gaining some deserved attention in recent years (see, for example, the Polaris Project's recent study on human trafficking in the U.S.) although concern for the issue often focuses overseas. Women and immigrants are often victims of such crimes. The crime is a much-needed reminder that the issue deserves increased attention here in the United States.