Kevin Bales is an expert on modern slavery and he was Founder of Free the Slaves.
"He is Professor of Contemporary Slavery at the Wilberforce Institute for the Study of Slavery and Emancipation at the University of Hull, Honorary Professor Institute for the Study of Slavery Culture, Language & Area Studie, University of Nottingham 2013-2016, Emeritus Professor, Roehampton University in London, and for 2015 will be the Richard & Ann Pozen Visiting Professor in Human Rights, University of Chicago.
In 2002-05 he was Principal Investigator, Study of Human Trafficking into the US, funded by National Institute of Justice. In 2006 his work on contemporary slavery named one of the top “100 World-Changing Discoveries” by the Association of British Universities. He received an Emmy Award in 2002, “Outstanding Achievement in a Craft – Research,” for research on the documentary film Slavery: a Global Investigation, based his book Disposable People; also a Peabody Award, 2002, “Best Documentary,” with TrueVision Productions for Slavery: a Global Investigation.
"Bales's book Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy published in 1999, was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, and was published in Spanish, Portuguese, German, Italian, Norwegian, Russian, Turkish, Korean, Arabic, and Japanese. Winner of the 2000 Premio Internazionale Viareggio Versilia, literary prize awarded to a book that promotes social justice and peace. Revised Edition published in 2004; “10th Anniversary” revised edition to be published in 2012. . Archbishop Desmond Tutu called it "a well researched, scholarly and deeply disturbing expose of modern slavery". A revised edition was published in 2005. This book was based on the first-hand in-depth study of five slave-based "businesses" in five different countries: Thailand (prostitution); Mauritania (water selling); Brazil (charcoal production); India (agriculture); and Pakistan (brick making).
His book Ending Slavery: How We Free Today’s Slaves, University of California Press, September 2007 won the Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Promoting World Order 2011 ($100,000); it was also published in Japanese and Finnish.
Other books include:Trafficking in Persons in the United States, Washington DC:BiblioGov (US Government publication), 2012, with Stephen Lize.
The Slave Next Door: Human Trafficking and Slavery in America Today, University of California Press, 2009, with Ron Soodalter (co-author).
Modern Slavery, OneWorld Publications, 2009, with Zoe Trodd and Alex Williamson
To Plead Our Own Cause: Personal Stories by Today’s Slaves, Cornell University Press, 2008, with Zoe Trodd (co-editor).
Documenting Disposable People: Contemporary Global Slavery, Hayward Publishing, 2008, 158 pages, Project to survey contemporary global slavery carried out with eight Magnum photographers: Abbas, Ian Berry, Stuart Franklin, Jim Goldberg, Susan Meiselas, Paolo Pellegrin, Chris Steele-Perkins, and Alex Webb.
Traffik, Powerhouse Books, 2008, Text for photographic project on survivors of trafficking into sexual enslavement with photographer Norman Jean Roy.
Slavery Today – A Groundwork Guide, Groundwood Books, 2008, with R.T. Cornell (co-author). Also published in Korean, German, and Swedish.
"Bales was a Trustee of Anti-Slavery International and was a consultant to the United Nations Global Program on Trafficking of Human Beings. He has been invited to advise the US, British, Irish, Norwegian, and Nepali governments, as well as the governments of the Economic Community of West African States, on the formulation of policy on slavery and human trafficking. He recently edited an Anti-Human Trafficking Toolkit for the United Nations, and published, with the Human Rights Center at Berkeley, a report on forced labor in the USA." 
He has served on the Board of Directors of the registered charity, the International Cocoa Initiative since its establishment in 2001 by the Harkin-Engel Protocol (Senator Harkin and Congressman Engel). He is one of several human rights, labor union, and anti-child labor activists who serve on the board including: Kailash Sartyarthi of the Global March against Child Labor, representatives of the Child Labor Coalition, Cleophas Mally of WAO Afrique, and representatives of the International Union of Farmworkers and the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions. Together they help to guide the programs in West Africa that reduce child and forced labor in the cocoa growing regions.
- Michael Barker, "Combating (Some) Slavery", Swans Commentary, September 7, 2009.
In September 2009 Christian Parenti penned a scathing criticism of Bales, noting how in an interview aired on Democracy Now! that Bales "comments about his organization and the chocolate industry that were either willfully naïve or simply dishonest" and that his "behavior is utterly unconscionable."