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Trafficking Infrastructure Grows: New York’s Statewide Initiative

In the past month, the State of New York has introduced 11 new Human Trafficking Intervention Courts (including Buffalo and Rochester, near where I live in upstate NY). According to the New York Times, the new courts are modeled after three pilot projects that had been established earlier in New York City, and the “initiative is believed to be the first of its kind in the nation.”

The NY law resembles the federal U.S. law in targeting force, fraud and coercion (what the national law dubs “severe forms” of trafficking). Included in its list of punishable offenses is withholding of a passport or other identity document.

The initiative follows criticism of the weak implementation of NY’s 2007 antitrafficking law. As of 2009, there had been one conviction. This seems to be reflected in anti-trafficking more generally: as of 2009 there had been 196 cases under the federal law, by contrast with the  estimate of 14,000+ trafficked persons annually into the US given by the State Department.

Anti-trafficking advocates argue that low conviction rates reflect a lack of training and understanding among conventional police forces, perhaps coupled with chauvinistic prejudice. Critics suggest that the mismatch may have more to do with the flawed and overblown data supporting the annual estimates. (The “Data Matters” section of this website contains some further discussion.)

The law, which focuses on sex trafficking (labor trafficking is also included albeit as a lesser offense), provides those charged with prostitution with a way out of direct criminal prosecution — the law reframes who is a victim versus a perpetrator – although, since prosecutions often seek testimony from trafficking victims, involvement with the criminal justice system may continue in some form. Questions around implementation will include:  what proportion of prosecutions will look at labor trafficking rather than sex trafficking? how well will victims fare following identification by the criminal justice system? what proportion of resources will be spent on victim assistance versus criminal prosecution?

 

Related posts:

  1. The Human Trafficking Pro Bono Legal Center
  2. Call for Papers: Following the Money: Spending on Anti-Trafficking, Anti-Trafficking Review, Special Issue
  3. The Eye of the Beholder: How Bad Data, Scrambles for Funding and Professional Bias Shape Human Trafficking Law and Policy, Dina Francesca Haynes
  4. Good Intentions are Not Enough: Four Recommendations for Implementing the Trafficking Victims Protection Act by Dina Haynes
  5. Martina E. Vandenberg, The Human Trafficking Pro Bono Legal Center