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Morris County Sheriff’s Office “Project Offer Help” art contest winners selected

MORRIS COUNTY, NJ – The Morris County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) had held its 2nd annual Human Trafficking Poster Contest which was open to all Morris County Middle Schools and High Schools.

The contest is to raise awareness and foster outreach for those impacted by this terrible crime.

The First Place Winner for the Morris County Middle School is:

School: Mount Olive Middle School
Student: Avery Greene
Grade: 8
Art Teacher: Melissa Carubia
Principal: James Kramer

The First Place Winner for the Morris County High School is:

School: Boonton High School
Student: Ayano Miles
Grade: 12
Art Teacher: Kerrie Bellisario
Principal: Jason Klebez

(Photo: Boonton Principal (R), winner (C), art teacher (L).

In October 2020, members of the Morris County Sheriff’s Office, Bureau of Corrections implemented a victim assistance program titled, “Project Offer Help” to identify incarcerated victims of human trafficking. Using a trauma informed approach, and a coordinated response team, correctional staff have been undergoing training on how to recognize and intervene when a potential victim enters the correctional facility.

Under the direction of Captain Joseph Fucci and with the support of Warden Christopher Kein, “Project Offer Help” has grown to include sworn law enforcement officers, civilian staff, and nationally recognized clinical professionals. Selected response team members include Morris County Undersheriff Alan Robinson who is a nationally recognized expert on sex trafficking/exploitation and has proven to be a valuable in-house resource with his extensive knowledge and training. Retired Detective Corporal Edwin Santana, who is a nationally recognized gang expert, has made himself available to educate staff on the correlation between gang activity and human trafficking. Counselor Jennifer Castner, MA uses her background in crisis response and victim services to provide training and consultation to staff. Staff psychologist Rebecca Kooger, MA has been working with MCSO intake staff to respond to referrals regarding potential victims.

The “Project Offer Help” meets monthly for training, in conference about suspected victims and to discuss current national and state current trends, as a variety of experts on both the local and national levels have been consulted to assist in the team’s growth.

In January of 2021, the Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted a training at the correctional facility. The FBI’s Human Trafficking Unit has expressed a desire to remain involved to provide ongoing education on victimology training. In addition, staff members received training from local resources such as Stephanie Klotz, MSW from Morris County JBWS and Laura Magnone, Assistant Prosecutor with the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office. Recently Edwin Torres, a nationally recognized gang expert and investigator with the New Jersey State Commission of Investigation, joined the team to assist in training. The MCSO is also working to establish a relationship with the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office in Portland, Oregon for possible collaboration. Multnomah County began a similar victim centered correctional facility outreach program to help connect trafficking victims to a healthier lifestyle upon release. In addition, Multnomah County has created a database to assist in ongoing trafficker investigations and to share information with agency partners. It is the goal for the MCSO to mirror their program, to build awareness of human trafficking, and assist with dismantling trafficking operations within the community.

Human trafficking experts have determined that victims often do not seek help unless they are directly asked. If a victim is unwilling to speak or is still too deeply ingrained in what is known as “the life”, it is the hope by validating their experience and providing basic screening and interventions, a victim will hopefully be empowered to ask for help from those seeking to help. “Project Offer Help” attempts to portray law enforcement in a positive and trustworthy light in hope that it will show victims there is help and guidance available. If the MCSO is unable to assist a victim while they are incarcerated, perhaps in the future, after planting the seed for change, the victim will be open to asking the law enforcement community for assistance in achieving a safe and heathy lifestyle. Upon accepting help, the MCSO correctional facility has established relationships with local social service providers to assist in guiding a victim to safer options. As emphasized by Captain Fucci, “As long as we can help one, mission accomplished.”

Captain Fucci, chairs the Human Trafficking Committee, and is the Sheriff’s Office representative at both State and Federal meetings on this topic, was the first superior officer to bring a program such as “Project Offer Help” to any county correctional facility in New Jersey. Captain Fucci works closely on the committee with Dr. Susan Neiger, who is the Vice President of the Board of Trustees of the New Jersey Coalition Against Human Trafficking and Clinical Psychologist.

Jay Edwards

Born and raised in Northwest NJ, Jay has a degree in Communications and has had a life-long interest in local radio and various styles of music. Jay has held numerous jobs over the years such as stunt car driver, bartender, voice-over artist, traffic reporter (award winning), NY Yankee maintenance crewmember and peanut farm worker. His hobbies include mountain climbing, snowmobiling, cooking, performing stand-up comedy and he is an avid squirrel watcher. Jay has been a guest on America’s Morning Headquarters,program on The Weather Channel, and was interviewed by Sam Champion.

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