One year ago, a coalition of New York state prosecutors, judges, and defense attorneys announced a bold plan: a system of special courts to try people charged with prostitution-related offenses, one meant to help those defendants leave the sex trade by offering them counseling and assistance instead of jail time. It was dubbed the Human Trafficking Intervention Initiative. In the words of Judge A. Gail Prudenti, one of the judges involved in helping to define the court's scope, the system sprang from a desire "to intervene in the lives of trafficked human beings." Prudenti added, "While there still is an antiquated view that prostitution is a chosen profession, many individuals who end up in New York courts on prostitution charges are victims of trafficking, recruited into the commercial sex industry by force, fraud, or coercion."
Image via Facebook Red Umbrella Project executive director Audacia Ray speaking to sex-worker advocates last year.