Safe Harbor for Exploited Children
A child arrested on prostitution charges in New York State faces a cruel tangle of legal double standards. By law, a child younger than 17 cannot consent to sex; yet the Family Court Act allows the state to prosecute and incarcerate sexually exploited children as “juvenile delinquents,” convicting and locking up children, even as young as 11 years old, for prostitution. While New York State’s recently enacted human trafficking legislation protects victims of the international sex trade from criminal prosecution, it fails to offer the same safeguards to New York’s children.
In partnership with the Juvenile Justice Coalition, the Correctional Association’s Juvenile Justice Project is working to end the criminalization of sexually exploited children by promoting the Safe Harbor Act for Exploited Children. Project staff helped draft this landmark bill, which, if enacted, will prevent the state from prosecuting and incarcerating children on prostitution charges and create a range of specialized services for victims, including safe houses, counseling and crisis intervention.
The bill gathered remarkable momentum this year due to the Coalition’s intensive advocacy efforts and statewide editorial support and press coverage, including pieces in The New York Times, Albany Times Union, Legislative Gazette and New York Magazine, and reports on NPR radio and NY1 news. On April 20, the Office of Children and Family Services released a report estimating that there are at least 2,900 sexually exploited young people in New York State, with 85% having been in the child welfare system. The study’s methodology counted only the sexually exploited young people already identified—leaving out youth who had not had contact with city and state agencies—so the true number is likely even higher. In response, on the day of the report’s release, the Juvenile Justice Coalition held a press conference to bring attention to the issue of commercial sexual exploitation and to call on the state to enact the Safe Harbor Act. On April 24th, the Coalition organized an effective Advocacy Day in Albany that helped to educate more legislators about this issue.
As a result of the Coalition’s work, the bill passed the State Assembly with unanimous support. Unfortunately, in the State Senate vote, a last-minute language change seriously undermined the bill’s core purpose. During the upcoming session, the Coalition will urge the Senate to endorse the Assembly version and leave the bill in its original, undiluted form. The Juvenile Justice Project will continue to promote passage of the Safe Harbor Act, so that sexually exploited children in New York State will receive the help and support they need to escape the sex trade and rebuild their lives.
The New York Times in this editorial today is saying what we at the CA have been reporting on for decades: without any any transparency and accountability, the abuse of people who are incarcerated will persist and those who are responsible will still act with impunity. Until accountability is the norm and not the exception, the abuse -- and in some cases, loss of life -- will continue.Read More
Outside the New State Office Building in Harlem on a hot summer day, prison reform advocates stand with NYC Quakers. They oppose solitary confinement and demand an end to the inhumane treatment of inmates. Right now about 5000 inmates in NY are in the shu. They are in solitary. Some are held for 23 to [...]Read More
Prison Monitoring Reports
Attica Correctional Facility, a 2,000-bed maximum security prison in western New York, continues to operate as a symbolic and real epicenter of state violence and abuse of incarcerated persons in the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) state prison system 43 years after the 1971 prison uprising and violent suppression by state authorities. The [...]Read More
Gabrielle Horowitz-Prisco, director of the Correctional Association's Juvenile Justice Project, testified before the New York State Legislature on the Governor’s proposed budget for 2013-2014.Read More