Criminal Justice

New prostitution courts will help sex-trafficking victims with social service referrals

Eleven new courts across New York will handle prostitution cases with a goal of providing services to the victims of human- and sex-trafficking.

The courts are the first statewide system to deal with trafficking, according to New York Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman. He revealed plans for the Human Trafficking Intervention Courts in a speech on Wednesday, the New York Times reports.

Defendants appearing before the courts will be referred for social services if there is agreement by the judge, defense lawyer and prosecutor. Such services may include drug treatment, shelter, immigration assistance, health care, education and job training.

The courts will handle prostitution-related charges past arraignment and will be running by the end of October. According to the Times, “The initiative comes at a time of growing consensus among criminal justice professionals across the country that in many cases it makes more sense to treat people charged with prostitution offenses as victims rather than defendants.”

Former ABA President Laurel Bellows had focused on the battle against human trafficking during her term that ended in August. “This is modern-day slavery within the borders of our own country,” she had said. The ABA House of Delegates voted to support a model template that could be used by states to combat trafficking at Bellows’ last meeting as president.

Some cities have also created special trafficking courts, the Times says. They include Baltimore; Columbus, Ohio; Phoenix; and West Palm Beach, Fla. Texas’ largest counties will be required to start prostitution diversion programs under a new state law.

Prior coverage:

ABA Journal: “Slavery continues to haunt the modern world, but efforts to eradicate it are growing”

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