New York is creating the nation's first statewide system of courts to help prostitutes escape a life of exploitation and violence and move on to "productive lives," Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman said Wednesday.
"We have come to recognize that the vast majority of children and adults charged with prostitution offenses are commercially exploited or at risk of exploitation," Lippman said in an announcement made with legal, law enforcement, service providers and advocacy groups.
"Human trafficking is a crime that inflicts terrible harm on the most vulnerable members of society: victims of abuse, the poor, children, runaways, immigrants," he said. "It is in every sense a form of modern-day slavery. We cannot tolerate this practice in a civilized society, nor can we afford to let victims of trafficking slip between the cracks of our justice system."
Lippman said that while human trafficking includes labor trafficking, nearly 80 percent of victims are trafficked for sex.
Specialized courts will have presiding judges trained in the dynamics of sex trafficking and the services available to victims.
"This new initiative will stop the pattern of shuffling trafficking victims through our criminal courtrooms without addressing the underlying reasons why they are there in the first place," Lippman said.
Three pilot courts in Queens, midtown Manhattan and Nassau County are up and running.
The specialized courts will be operating throughout New York City by mid-October and around the state by the end of October, he said.