A new initiative in New York will offer a number of services to help victims of human trafficking escape a cycle of crime.
Specialized courts will be established to handle prostitution cases and provide victims of sex trafficking access to drug treatment, employment opportunities, shelter, and other services.
The Chief Judge of New York State, Jonathan Lippman, announced the new initiative on Wednesday.
Richard Aborn, president of the Citizens Crime Commission of New York, says it's better to help victims of trafficking than to criminalize them.
“It is much more effective to find out why they're engaged in prostitution and intervene in their lives,” Aborn said, “meaning give them the chance to get out of the world of prostitution and out of the world of human trafficking.”
Currently, prostitution cases are handled in the same way as other low-level crimes like shoplifting or graffiti, and punished by a fine or jail time. For victims of human and sex-trafficking, this can lead to a cycle of crime and violence, according to Aborn.
Aborn said sex trafficking is a more common problem in New York than many New Yorkers realize.
“If there’s one woman being forced into sex slavery,” he said, “we need to respond to that, the reality however is that this is a major unseen problem, it's a hidden problem.”
The statewide initiative follows a smaller pilot program of special courts already established in Queens, Manhattan and Nassau County. The new courts will be set up in each borough in New York City by Oct. 10 and throughout the state by the end of October.