After my first trip to Jamaica, I wanted to bring my fictional story about human trafficking to life. I knew the basic plot lines that I wanted to write, but my two decades of work in the criminal justice system didn’t give me enough to flesh out my story. I’ve seen the extortion of prison gangs, the desperation of inmates serving life prison terms, the violent consequences of drug crime, but not large scale sales of another human being.
The antagonist in my story is a fictional blend of real criminal personalities I have run across over the years, including one who kept a woman in a box under his bed as a sex slave. Sociopaths swim in their own dark waters and this story needed someone especially callous. He is someone born of violence and to him, people are a commodity to be bought and sold.
In the course of my research on the international aspects of human trafficking, I learned that the Jamaican government has been fighting a battle they can’t win. The country is on the Watch List of nations failing to stop the predators and the allocation of resources to make a meaningful impact are virtually nonexistent.
Once you discover that the polished jewel of Caribbean tourism has a darker, dangerous side, the way you experience the island changes. Everyone seems to have a hustle, or an angle. Nothing is as innocent as it first seems. The bar man who moonlights as an unlicensed tour guide, the porter who sells the hotel’s liquor, and the shuttle driver who sells dope to his passengers, each try milk a few extra dollars from unsuspecting tourists to make ends meet. It is officially frowned upon, but everyone knows about this underground economy. The pervasiveness and acceptance of this way of life provides an environment where the human trade thrives.
I have a profound respect for Jamaica and the Jamaican people. In all my experiences, I have found them warm, friendly and very proud of their culture. Human trafficking is a huge issue on the island, but it does not define the country, any more than cartel murders define Mexico, or random mass shootings define the United States. But the common thread in all these tragic events is that human life is something disposable to those with power, and fleeting for those without.
My concept for a fictional piece dealing with human trafficking uses this unseen part of the island as a backdrop. In this place, drugs, sex and guns offer a quick, often deadly path out of poverty. In my novel, the mother searching for her daughter is caught in the swift currents of the human trafficking economy where she receives no help from the government or police authorities. In real life, the victims of the trafficking networks are also very much ignored.
Sometimes there is only a fine line between fiction and the hard truth.