New Courts to Handle Prostitution Cases and Provide Services to Human Trafficking Victims

New York has become the first state in the nation to establish a statewide system of specialized criminal courts which will handle cases involving charges of prostitution and related offenses and provide supportive services to victims of human trafficking. The City Bar’s Sex and Law Committee applauds the Judiciary’s recognition of the historical and misplaced criminalization of victims of trafficking. Under the new system, cases involving prostitution and related offenses that continue past arraignment will be evaluated by specially trained judges, defense lawyers and prosecutors. If they agree, the court will refer the defendant to services that include shelter, health care, immigration assistance, education, drug treatment, and job training. These specialized criminal courts intend to provide victims of trafficking with access to necessary services and opportunities to rebuild their lives. Further, this statewide initiative represents a significant step towards ending the vicious cycle of discrimination and stigmatization faced by victims of sex trafficking regarding their criminal histories, which often impacts victims’ lives long after their escape from trafficking. The new courts are expected to be functioning by the end of October.