The Los Angeles Times profiles county court Commissioner Catherine Pratt, who for three years has led an experimental program that provides professional help for young prostitutes, treating them as victims rather than perpetrators. Advocates from at least three charities providing mentors, educational liaisons and lawyers sit in the jury box of Pratt’s courtroom to connect with the youths when the need arises.
More than 60 percent of L.A. County children arrested for prostitution had previously come to the attention of the county’s Department of Children and Family Services, and the foster care system’s group homes have become one of most frequent gateways to the sex trade. Three years ago, county commissioners approved an experiment to use Pratt’s “softer” approach with young prostitutes. She said she used to lecture the women about “bad choices.” “It really didn’t resonate with them at all,” she said.