Criminal, Victim or Worker? The effects of New York's Human trafficking intervention courts on adults charged with prostitution-related offenses

The Red Umbrella Project
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A sex worker-led observational report on the first year of the court project

New York’s Human Trafficking Intervention Courts (HTICs), the nation’s first statewide human trafficking intervention within a justice system, were launched in September 2013, with eleven courts established throughout the state. The HTICs mandate people charged with prostitution-related misdemeanours, including survivors of trafficking as well as people who trade sex by choice and circumstance, to participate in alternatives to incarceration programs. Defendants who complete a mandated programme obtain an adjournment for contemplation of dismissal (ACD), and if they are not arrested for any offense for six months, the charge is dismissed and sealed.

The research

This report documents what happens inside the Brooklyn and Queens HTICs, based on court observations that were conducted by staff and members of the sex worker-led Red Umbrella Project (RedUP) from December 2013 until August 2014. This report is a research that The Red Umbrella Project set out to find out more than what the media reports about the courts.


-        The HTICs are structured to encourage defendants to accept the offer of mandated sessions and pursue an ACD which is not an admission of guilt.

-        In Brooklyn, Black people are present in the HTIC and face prostitution-related charges at a disproportional high rate.

-        Of the defendants who were granted ACDs in court during our study period and whose dates of court involvement, in Queens the defendants who obtained ACDs most commonly did so in two to four months, while in Brooklyn defendants most commonly took one and a half to three months to do so. However, in both boroughs the charges for Mandarin speaking defendants have a slower resolution, most commonly spending five to six months obtaining their ACDs. In Queens, Mandarin speakers make up 46% of the defendants in the HTIC.

-        There are no publicly established standards for the social services that are mandated for defendants. In Brooklyn defendants are required to complete six sessions and in Queens defendants are required to complete five sessions of a mandate programme in order to be granted an ACD in court. From on-the-the-record discussions of services and conversations with individual service providers, we gathered that many service providers focus on providing one-on-one trauma-based psychotherapy to defendants, while others provide group therapy, life skills workshops, and yoga. These services may be a helpful part of healing for those who identify a desire for these services, but short-term mandated assistance does not address the pervasive problems that defendants face.

You can download this 36-page resource as a PDF above. This resource is in English.