Rethinking the Response to Human Trafficking

Many justice reformers have come to recognize that prostitution is often a form of human trafficking and that the standard response to these cases—fines and jail time—requires significant rethinking.

In recent years, the Center for Court Innovation has been wrestling with this challenge on multiple fronts:

Operations: Since the Midtown Community Court opened in 1993, the Center has sought to test new approaches to working with women and girls arrested on prostitution charges. Most recently, the Court has attempted to address the underlying trauma and victimization that contributes to a cycle of re-arrests for many women. For example, the Court helped Rose, a 21-year-old single mother arrested multiple times on prostitution charges, find housing and work toward her GED. A social worker from the Court also provided counseling and support as Rose not only left her pimp but helped convict him on trafficking charges with her testimony.

Strategy: Last year, New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman announced a statewide initiative to address human trafficking through the courts, including the creation of specialized courts dedicated to serving this population. The Center for Court Innovation has been an active participant in helping to plan and implement this initiative, which has enabled hundreds of victims to access needed services.

National Consulting: The Center has worked across the country, helping court reformers in California, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, and Texas to identify and assist victims of human trafficking. The Center's national work includes participating in the Human Trafficking and the State Courts Collaborative, which recently published A Guide to Human Trafficking for State Courts.

To learn more about the Center's trafficking work, please contact Liberty Aldrich at aldrichl@courtinnovation.org or Robyn Mazur at mazurr@courtinnovation.org.

Identifying and Responding to Sex Trafficking