A New York State approach of treating women – accused of prostitution-related offences – as the victims of trafficking has caused consternation as well as praise. In October, I spent a day in the Queens Human Trafficking Intervention Court (HTIC), founded in 2004, and used as a model for a statewide 11-court program which began nine years later.
So far, over 3,000 defendants have passed through their doors. The concept behind the HTIC is to help women caught up in the sex trade, to recover from their experiences, and to exit prostitution. A defendant can be referred to drug treatment or immigrant legal services, as well as being offered general support and counselling. The HTIC is partnered with a large network of counsellors and court advocates, including two that work with the Asian women that make up the majority of the defendants in the Queens courtroom.