The chief judge said, “Human trafficking is a crime that inflicts terrible harm. Victims of abuse are the poor, children, runaways, and immigrants. It is in every sense a form of modern-day slavery. We cannot tolerate this practice in a civilized society. We cannot afford to let victims of trafficking slip between the cracks of our justice system.”
At the same time, a report by the Institute of Medicine said sex trafficking and such exploitation are “commonly overlooked, misunderstood and unaddressed forms of child abuse.”
Children under a certain age cannot legally consent to sex. However, most states charge minors as prostitutes and not as victims.
The courts now will now treat prostitution-related cases differently. Special training is being given to judges, prosecutors and defense lawyers. The courts will send victims to services like drug treatment, shelters, immigration assistance and health care. They will refer them to education and job training.
The goal is to keep victims from returning to the streets as prostitutes.
Cities such as Baltimore, Columbus, Phoenix, West Palm Beach and Florida, and counties in parts of Texas, have set up human trafficking courts.
A lawyer said criminal records affect employment, housing, benefits and even the ability to stay in this country. The New York approach can “give survivors of human trafficking a second chance in life.”