The conference provided an in-depth look at New York’s Human Trafficking Intervention Courts (also known as "AP-8" parts), which were implemented in October 2013, under the leadership of New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman. One of the highlights of the day was the judges’ panel, on which Hon. Fernando Camacho, Hon. William O’Brien, and Hon. Toko Serita spoke about their experiences in the early days of creating “prostitution diversion” courts. Judge Camacho shared a poignant story of a young girl who repeatedly came through his courtroom, whom he began to recognize was not a “criminal,” but a child desperately in need of support. By hearing the stories of the defendants in their courtrooms and striving to understand their lives, these judges began to implement alternative sentencing practices that led to the official creation of the AP-8 parts. The judges discussed the challenges of the work, emphasizing that the goal of the intervention courts is not to rescue. Rather, the courts provide an opportunity for defendants to connect with legal and social resources, and to find support of their choosing.
Later in the day, The Center for Court Innovation’s Coordinator of Trafficking Programs, Miriam Goodman, moderated a panel on the impact of trauma on trafficking victims. The panel featured women from a range of professions, including nursing and medicine, social work, and psychology. Dr. Veronica Ades spoke about the Empower Clinic at Gouverneur Health, which offers low-fee services to survivors of sex trafficking and sexual violence. Jaime Hedlund of STEPS to End Family Violence spoke about the use of yoga and bodywork to aid in trauma recovery. Kate B. Nooner, a psychologist at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, gave a presentation on the effects of trauma in the brain. Although the presentation demonstrated how deeply trauma can impact a person’s psychological functioning and development, it offered a great deal of hope and insight into how resilient the human brain, mind and body can be when provided with social, familial, and clinical support.
Overall, the conference created a great deal of inspiration and hope. While we still have a long way to go, it was incredibly encouraging to be in a room filled with men and women from so many professional backgrounds, all working toward the prevention of commercial sex trafficking. With the advent of the Human Trafficking Intervention Courts, we seem to be in a time of significant change—both in policies and attitudes. While our courts are changing to help protect, rather than criminalize, victims of sex trafficking, they have also begun to recognize that all individuals engaged in sex work—regardless of whether they do so by choice or by coercion—are human beings of great worth who deserve respect, opportunity, and empowerment.
- Charlotte Weber, MSW
AP-8 Case Manager, Bronx Community Solutions