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  • Foreword

    For most of our history, trafficking victims were characterized as criminals, addicts, delinquents, profit-driven, and morally degenerate. But our society’s understanding of this difficult problem has evolved over time. A new generation of enlightened criminal justice thinkers around the country now apprehend that the vast majority of children and adults charged with prostitution offenses are commercially exploited, or at risk of exploitation. All too often, they are victims of intimate partner violence, runaways, or in the grip of an addiction that has led to their exploitation. In New York, we also recognize that a systemic problem, such as human trafficking, required a systemic response. One or two courts in limited jurisdictions would be insufficient to address such a widespread problem. The new, court-led Initiative is the first in the country to create a statewide system of specialized courts to address virtually all cases involving trafficking victims throughout the state. The Human Trafficking Intervention Initiative will address nearly ninety-five percent of all of those charged with prostitution and related offenses in New York. Our Initiative provides a template for the rest of the country in dealing with the societal impact of human trafficking that ultimately ends up in our courtrooms. Around the country, the courts must play a critical role in re-orienting the justice system to more ably identify and assist victims, address public safety concerns, and respond to societal ills.