Why establish a special state court system for suspected prostitutes? Start with the fact that many sex workers were forced into their careers at horrifically young ages by human traffickers and other criminals who profited big-time from their servitude. And understand that with well-placed help, many of these victims could rebuild their lives.
In an investment that's wise, necessary and humane, New York -- by the end of next month -- will become the first state in the nation to set up a network of 11 courts to hear trafficking intervention cases.
How will it work?
Judges in appropriate cases will meet with prosecutors and defense lawyers to decide whether defendants need services.
If the answer is yes, cases not resolved by dismissals or guilty pleas will go to the trafficking intervention courts.
Once there, defendants can be linked with health care, drug treatment, shelter, job training and education services.
For those who comply with the strictures of the court, charges can ultimately be dismissed or reduced.
The statewide program will be modeled after pilot human-trafficking courts in Queens, Manhattan and Nassau County.
Its official purpose in the words of Jonathan Lippman, chief judge of the State Court of Appeals, is to eradicate human trafficking, "in every sense a form of modern-day slavery," a crime that inflicts "terrible harm on the most vulnerable members of society -- victims of abuse, the poor, children, runaways, immigrants."
The New York program is as welcome as it is overdue.
Human trafficking is second only to drug trafficking in profitability, Lippman says. The Department of Justice estimates that as many as 17,500 victims are brought to the United States each year. And hundreds of thousands more are working in virtual bondage within the country -- most of them for sex.
Though they often reach our court system as suspected wrongdoers, too many are survivors of soul-crushing evil. They deserve a chance to put their lives back together.