Safe Harbor for Exploited Children Act sign now

Dear Honorable Joseph L. Bruno, Senator Dale M. Volker and Senator William Scarborough,

We the undersigned New York State residents and constituents urge you to enact the Safe Harbor for Exploited Children Act, A. 5258. As esteemed legislative representatives, we recognize that it is within your power to assure that sexually exploited minors are protected in New York State and are not prosecuted as criminals, but are provided crucial supportive residential and rehabilitative services.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section there are an estimated 293,000 youth in the United States who engage in prostitution (Domestic trafficking, 2007). Perhaps more alarming is that these numbers tend to be under-estimated as many victims are instructed by their pimps to use false names and ages. Juvenile prostitution and sex work, under New York State law, is currently considered a criminal act. However, both federally and internationally sexually exploited minors are recognized as victims. Many sexually exploited youth in New York are arrested and/or incarcerated in juvenile detention center. Criminal prosecution further traumatizes the youth while increasing the recidivism rate and these victims likely return to prostitution. Thus, it is imperative to provide rehabilitative and protective services to help juveniles recover from the trauma they have endured as victims of assault and statutory rape. The enactment of the Safe Harbor for Exploited children Act would assure these services.

The Safe Harbor for Exploited Children Act would change the way the legal system both understands the needs of these victims and their ability to provide appropriate services. As estimated by the New York Juvenile Justice Coalition, incarcerating one minor in a juvenile detention center cost the state $150,000 a year. This money could be reallocated to provide funding for rehabilitative services. The Act would help to establish specialized community-based programs, such as safe houses, supportive counseling services and community outreach initiatives. Additionally, part of this bill would eliminate prostitution from the list of offenses that a minor can be charged with under the Family Court System.

This bill does not legalize prostitution, but will allow the legal system to channel its resources towards the systemic causes of sexual exploitation, for example by focusing on the pimps and johns who are often only charged with a fine.

We thank you in advance for your time and attention to this important issue. We request your support for the Safe Harbor for Exploited Children Act, and that you encourage your respected colleagues, in following your leadership to pass this extremely important legislation and support the fragile children of New York State.

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Renee ClarkBy:
HealthIn:
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New York State Legislator

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