A diversion program for victims of human trafficking is spreading to cities around the country. The model has roots in Columbus, Ohio, where a judge decided to direct women toward rehabilitation instead of jail.
Ten years ago, Judge Paul Herbert was sitting in a courtroom when he noticed a trend. He was seeing lots of women who were abused and forced into sex work, but they were being treated like criminals.
“The sheriff brings the next defendant out on the wall chained up,” Herbert says, “and it’s a woman and she’s all beat up, she’s looking exactly like one of these victims of domestic violence except she’s in handcuffs and a jail suit. I look down at the file and it says prostitute.”
Herbert realized the law didn’t recognize these women as victims of human trafficking. So he pitched the idea of a courtroom dedicated to recovery, not punishment. It’s called CATCH Court, which stands for Changing Actions To Change Habits.
“We didn’t have the vocabulary that we do, even the vocabulary, let alone the way society looked at these women,” Herbert says. “So it was pretty much, we were kind of a laughingstock.”
To read and listen to the full story by Paige Pfleger on NPR: Click HereTags: Columbus, Ohio