Assistant attorney general speaks to criminal justice class

April 29, 2013

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Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General Karie Cattanach

PLATTEVILLE, Wis.­­­ — Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General Karie Cattanach visited the University of Wisconsin-Platteville on April 12 to speak to Dr. Sabina Burton’s Women and the Law class about human trafficking in Wisconsin and the United States.

Dr. Burton, a professor of criminal justice, was creating a group project for her class when she came across some statistics about human trafficking. When she heard that the Wisconsin Attorney General’s Office was pushing an initiative against human trafficking in the Wisconsin legislature, Burton got in touch with Assistant Attorney General Cattanach, the point person for human trafficking litigation in Wisconsin, to let her know about the class project.

“Ms. Cattanach replied right away,” said Burton. “She was very interested in our group projects on human trafficking cases in the U.S. and answered my students’ questions. She even proposed to visit with the class and speak to us. Of course I took her up on her offer.”

“Human trafficking is an issue that has hidden in the shadows for many years,” said Cattanach, who has worked as assistant attorney general for two years.  “Increased awareness is how we’re going to increase prevention.”

“Human trafficking is a $32 billion per year industry, third only to arms dealing and drug dealing,” Cattanach told a full classroom on April 12, 2013. “Traffickers maintain control of their victims through force, fraud and coercion. This makes it difficult to bring trafficking cases to prosecution, because victims very rarely come forward.”

When Cattanach asked how many students were planning to become law enforcement officers, nearly half the students raised a hand.

“I want to give these future officers the increased awareness necessary to prevent trafficking crimes,” said Cattanach. “I want them to know when to take that second look at a situation, and what techniques to use to investigate it.”

Assistant Attorney General Cattanach is part of the Eastern and Western District Task Forces, which strive to prevent trafficking in Wisconsin, and had a hand in developing a guide for law enforcement officers to investigate and prosecute human trafficking cases. She also has worked for recent and future legislative changes that make it easier to prosecute traffickers and defend trafficking victims.

“Bringing in speakers like this enriches us, as professors,” said Dr. Burton. “It’s really special when we get to learn along with our students. I will make human trafficking a component of future Women & the Law classes and encourage future student research and presentation about this topic to increase awareness and strengthen enforcement efforts on state and federal levels.”

Cattanach’s knowledge was well used by Burton’s Women and the Law class.  On April 17, three students from the class presented their research on human trafficking in the rotunda of Madison’s capital building. Shelby Peterson, a senior criminal justice major from Waupun, Wis., Kyle Schewe, a senior criminal justice major from Oregon, Wis., and Ashley Henry, a senior criminal justice major from Lancaster, Wis., comprised one of six groups from UW-Platteville that presented research at the Rotunda. Among the visitors to their poster presentation were Chancellor Dennis J. Shields, State Representative Travis Tranel (R-Cuba City) and Wisconsin State Senator Dale Schultz.

“UW-Platteville students were the only ones presenting on criminal justice,” said Burton. “We looked around the whole Rotunda and didn’t find any others. It’s great to see that UW-Platteville supports undergraduate research initiatives. That kind of encouragement means a lot for students and professors.”

Contact: Sabina Burton, professor of criminal justice, (608) 342-1650,

Written by: Jacob Reecher, UW-Platteville University Information and Communications, (608) 342-1194,

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