Target: Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals Jonathan Lippman
Goal: Commend new court system for recognizing the root cause of prostitution and trying offenders accordingly
New York State is instituting eleven new specialized criminal courts that are designed to address the cycle of exploitation and arrest of human- and sex-trafficking victims. Because many women who enter into prostitution do so under duress between the ages of twelve and fourteen, these courts, called Human Trafficking Intervention Courts, will handle all cases related to prostitution, treating offenders as victims rather than defendants. The initiative is intended to address the underlying cause of prostitution with the recognition that human trafficking is very much a modern-day version of slavery.
Human trafficking takes advantage of the most vulnerable members of our society, exploiting abuse victims, children, the poor, and immigrants. Many crimes of human trafficking result in the prostitution of underage girls belonging to these socioeconomic groups. That means that those who are charged with prostitution offenses are often being charged for a crime they had no choice about committing. On top of that, they receive a criminal record, affecting employment, housing, opportunities to receive financial aid for college, and even the right to stay in the United States. Handling these cases as human trafficking issues rather than criminal prostitution issues will afford victims a second chance at life.
The Human Trafficking Intervention Courts will be equipped with specially trained judges, prosecutors, and criminal defense lawyers. In an effort to help these victims get on their feet, the court will also provide social workers alongside other services. These features will come at very little extra cost, as the courts will simply be handling the cases in a different manner. Any extra spending will be incurred by the special services themselves, which receive federal grants and private funding.
Instead of criminalizing prostitutes, New York’s Human Trafficking Intervention Courts will help them escape the cycle of abuse in which they have lived. All eleven courts will be fully functional by the end of next month, and will lend human trafficking victims a helping hand. Commend New York’s chief judge Jonathan Lippman, along with New York district attorneys, for implementing this new court system.
Dear Judge Lippman,
The new Human Trafficking Intervention Courts being implemented in New York will go a long way toward helping victims of human- and sex-trafficking. Many underage girls are sold into prostitution under duress, but are charged with a criminal offense when caught by the law. By helping prostitutes be seen as victims of human trafficking instead of criminals, you will be liberating women who have been forced to do unthinkable acts against their will.
This innovative system recognizes that slavery is present today in the form of prostitution, and fairly takes human trafficking into account when trying prostitutes. Best of all, the courts will offer rehabilitative measures for survivors. Furthermore, many victims of sex trafficking will have the chance to build a life, because they will not be given a criminal record. We commend you for implementing a system that examines the root of the cause of prostitution, rather than automatically criminalizing it.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Ira Gelb via Flickr