New York State is creating a statewide system of specialized criminal courts to handle prostitution cases and provide services to help human- and sex-trafficking victims escape the cycle of exploitation and arrest, reports the New York Times. The state's chief judge, Jonathan Lippman, said 11 new courts, modeled on pilot projects in New York City and Nassau County, will bring together specially trained prosecutors, judges and defense lawyers, along with social workers and an array of other services.
The new Human Trafficking Intervention Courts will handle all cases involving prostitution-related offenses that continue past arraignment. The program is similar to specialized courts for domestic violence and low-level drug offenses. Other cities have special trafficking courts, including Baltimore; Columbus, Ohio; Phoenix; and West Palm Beach, Fla. A law that took effect this month in Texas requires the largest counties to start prostitution diversion programs. But New York State's new courts represent the first statewide system to deal with human trafficking.