Coalition Defends Sexually Exploited Youth

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In a disturbing trend, young people in New York are being enticed into prostitution at very early ages—some as young as 11 or 12. Many are homeless, most have a history of physical or sexual abuse, and all are too young to legally consent to sex. Yet the state’s response is not to provide them with the housing, education and psychological care they need, but to send them to jail.

The Juvenile Justice Coalition (JJC), coordinated by the Correctional Association, is leading the effort to create less punitive, more therapeutic responses to sexually exploited youth. Last year, JJC helped defeat legislation that would have increased criminal penalties for youth under the age of 16 who are charged with loitering for prostitution. This year, we have joined with legislators in both the Assembly and the Senate to introduce the Sexually Exploited Young Person’s Protection Act, which will end prosecution of, and provide services to, sexually exploited youth (see above for details). We are very encouraged by the bipartisan support for this bill, and hope that the needed protections for sexually exploited young people will soon be in place.