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How should prostitution charges be handled?

Sex crimes are a very sensitive subject, no matter the circumstances. Because these criminal offenses are taken so seriously by law enforcement officials throughout the country, those who are accused can face permanent damage to their reputation, even for relatively minor charges.

For many years, prostitution has been treated as particularly taboo. Both parties involved in prostitution can face charges for sex crimes. However, courts throughout the country are beginning to take a new approach to prostitution-related charges because they often involve women caught up in sex trafficking.

New York, however, is taking this idea one step further. Courts throughout the state will specifically handle prostitution cases. These courts will be looking to approach cases with an aim toward rehabilitation, rather than punishment. The courts will offer shelter and social-work services to people -- particularly women -- who are found to be engaging in prostitution. Oftentimes, these individuals are involved in the sex trade because they are already members of a vulnerable group.

Although the New York Times report doesn't mention that prostitution is handled similarly in Washington jurisdictions, the existence of these courts shows that prostitution is often a very complex issues. The hope is that more thoughtful approaches to these charges can identify and remedy the actual issue at the heart of a case.

No matter the charges, those who are convicted of sex crimes often face difficulty finding a job after they've completed their sentence. The same goes for those who are convicted for prostitution. If a person is already coming from difficult circumstances, adding a conviction and long-term stigma into the mix can be even more detrimental.

Source: The New York Times, “With Special Courts, State Aims to Steer Women Away From Sex Trade,” William K. Rashbaum, Sept. 25, 2013

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