Click on title for more information about the book or to download a PDF file of the journal articles.


Trafficking Justice: How Russian Police Enforce New Laws, from Crime to Courtroom. 2015. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

In response to a growing human trafficking problem and domestic and international pressure, human trafficking and the use of slave labor were first criminalized in Russia in 2003. In Trafficking Justice, Lauren A. McCarthy explains why Russian police, prosecutors, and judges have largely ignored this new weapon in their legal arsenal, despite the fact that the law was intended to make it easier to pursue trafficking cases.

Using a combination of interview data, participant observation, and an original dataset of more than 5,500 Russian news media articles on human trafficking cases, McCarthy explores how trafficking cases make their way through the criminal justice system, covering multiple forms of the crime—sexual, labor, and child trafficking—over the period 2003–2013. She argues that to understand how law enforcement agencies have dealt with trafficking, it is critical to understand how their "institutional machinery"—the incentives, culture, and structure of their organizations—channels decision-making on human trafficking cases toward a familiar set of routines and practices and away from using the new law. As a result, law enforcement often chooses to charge and prosecute traffickers with related crimes, such as kidnapping or recruitment into prostitution, rather than under the 2003 trafficking law because these other charges are more familiar and easier to bring to a successful resolution. In other words, after ten years of practice, Russian law enforcement has settled on a policy of prosecuting traffickers, not trafficking.

Read an interview with the author about the book project here.

Journal Articles

Human Trafficking and the New Slavery.” 2014. Annual Review of Law and Social Sciences, 10: 221-242.

Human trafficking is an issue that has grabbed the attention of the world over the past 15 years. But meaningful progress and research are still held back by a number of debates between academics, policymakers, and activists. Agreeing upon a consistent definition and methods of measuring trafficking presents a challenge, as does the continued focus on the sex trafficking of women into prostitution to the exclusion of other types of trafficking and genders. Debates over what type of crime trafficking is and what drives it (organized crime, human rights, migration policies) have also had important impacts on the way that the phenomenon is conceptualized and dealt with at the national and international levels. This article outlines these debates and suggests directions for future research that can reveal the complexities of the phenomenon but also clarify our understandings of the lived experiences of people involved and the processes that drive it.

Local-Level Law Enforcement: Muscovites and their Uchastkovyy.” 2014. Post Soviet Affairs, 30(2-3): 195-225.

The uchastkovyy, or beat officer, is at the front lines of Russian police work. This article investigates the general environment in which the uchastkovyy functions, using Moscow as an example. More specifically, this article examines the institutional structure within which the beat cop operates, his/her duties and resources, the quota system used to evaluate his/her performance, and the nature of the interaction between the uchastkovyy and the public. In so doing, the study disaggregates the monolith that is the Russian police, focusing on that component of the force (uchastkovyy) that interacts most directly with the citizenry. It relies on data from a survey of 1500 Muscovites and four focus group encounters organized by the author to elicit a broad range of public attitudes regarding the performance and conduct of uchastkovyy, exploring particularly what measures might be taken to enhance the level of public trust in their local beat officers.

The Day-to-day Work of the Russian Police.” Russian Analytical Digest. 2014. vol. 151.

The Russian public has a dim view of its police. The strict hierarchy of the police ranks and the assessment system used to measure their job performance help to explain why the police do things that limit their ability to conduct criminal investigations and develop strong day-to-day relations with residents on their beats. Addressing these issues will provide the base for more effective police reform than Russia has seen so far.

Beyond Corruption: An Assessment of Russian Law Enforcement’s Fight against Human Trafficking.” 2010. Demokratizatsiya 18(1): 1-27.

In recent years, Russia has been dealing with a serious human trafficking issue. Russian law enforcement’s perceived failure to effectively prosecute traffickers is often blamed on corruption and their efforts have been criticized by domestic and foreign actors alike. This article explores human trafficking in the context of the criminal justice system as a whole, examining the incentives and disincentives that Russian law enforcement agencies have for enforcing anti-trafficking laws. Analysis reveals that poor performance is not due solely to corruption or disinterest in human trafficking. Structural impediments combined with problems specific to the antitrafficking law have made it more likely that they will use other parts of the Criminal Code to prosecute traffickers instead of the laws specific to trafficking.

A Comparative Analysis of Russian and American Law Enforcement Practices on Human Trafficking,” in Beyond Tolerance: Human Trafficking and Slave Labor: Metamorphosis of an Old Crime and New Methods for Combating It. Pacific State Economic University, Vladivostok, Russia, 2008. (Published in Russian: “Sravnitel’nii analiz praktiki rossiiskikh i amerikanskikh pravookhranitel’nykh institutov v protivodeistvii torgovle liud’mi” in Vne tolerantnosti. Torgovlya liud’mi i rabskii trud: metamorfozy starykh prestuplenii i novye metody ikh preodoleniya), in Russian. English version here.