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October 17, 2013

DA Rice Marks First Anniversary of Nassau Human Trafficking Court

Court combats modern-day slavery and serves as model for upcoming statewide program

MINEOLA, N.Y. – Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice marked today as the first anniversary of the Nassau County District Court’s Human Trafficking Intervention Part, which is serving as a model for a statewide human trafficking court system that will process nearly every single trafficking and prostitution case in New York.

“Our Human Trafficking Court goes to the heart of what justice is all about – helping victims rebuild their lives and making sure that those practicing this form of modern-day slavery are prosecuted,” DA Rice said. “I’m looking forward to seeing our work in Nassau continue for years to come and serve as a model for the rest of the state as these types of courts open up all over New York.”

The court is driven by the fact that human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery in which the victims, mostly women, are often forced to work in sex trades and give up their earnings and freedom. Victims also typically face physical and emotional abuse at the hands of their captors and clients.

The goal of Human Trafficking Court is to connect victims to programs that will help to heal scars both physical and psychological, rebuild safe and productive lives, and help them re-enter society as free and healthy individuals with the necessary tools to avoid the cycle of victimization and abuse that trafficked persons often find themselves in.

In Nassau County, all prostitution arrests are processed through Human Trafficking Court. Defendants are assessed as to whether or not they’re victims of international or domestic trafficking, are given non-criminal dispositions and are referred to various health and social programs such as the Nassau County Coalition Against Domestic Violence, STEPS to End Family Violence, Restore NYC and the Mount Sinai Sexual Assault and Violence Intervention Program.

In its first year, Nassau’s Human Trafficking Court has handled 295 cases and referred 126 defendants to programs.

Prostitution ringleaders, pimps, and johns are sent to regular court to be prosecuted and are tracked by the Human Trafficking Court, which also works with DA Rice’s Special Victims Bureau on investigations.

Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman and DA Rice, as President of the District Attorneys Association of the State of New York, announced last month that the Human Trafficking Court model, which has been in effect in Nassau, Queens and Manhattan, will expand to a total of 11 jurisdictions covering nearly 95 percent of the state’s human trafficking cases by the end of October. They will include all five boroughs of New York City; all of Long Island; and Westchester, Monroe, Erie and Onandaga Counties.

DA Rice has been a statewide leader in protecting the well-being and rights of the victims of human trafficking, including implementing a policy on October 11, 2012 of not allowing condoms to be used as evidence in prostitution cases – a critical public health issue for both prostitutes and their clients.

“Mounting evidence makes clear that police seizures and trial prosecutions using condoms as evidence make sex workers significantly less likely to carry and use condoms when working,” DA Rice argued in a Huffington Post op-ed last year. “The evidence's real power is in its enduring and unfortunate ability to deter safer sex in this industry.”