Governance Feminism in New York's Human Trafficking Intervention Courts
GOVERNANCE FEMINISM: A HANDBOOK (eds. Janet Halley, Prabha Kotiswaran, Rachel Rebouché & Hila Shamir (University of Minnesota Press) (with Aya Gruber), Forthcoming
30 Pages Posted: 30 May 2019 Last revised: 20 Apr 2020
Date Written: March 2, 2017
In New York’s new Human Trafficking Intervention Courts (HTICs), mostly female defendants are prosecuted for prostitution-related offenses and then offered social services in lieu of more traditional criminal justice sentences. These alternative problem-solving courts represent a reconceptualization of the status of prostitution defendants in the New York criminal court system: formerly regarded as low priority, quality-of-life offenders, they are perceived by the HTICs as presumptive victims of gender-based violence. This chapter explores the role that feminists, holding a range of views on commercial sex, played in the creation of these new courts even as it argues that virtually no feminist position — liberal, abolitionist, sex worker — should condone the arrest of women for selling sex. It explores how some feminists embraced the courts as depoliticized providers of services while others made strategic decisions to work with the new courts despite clear ideological misgivings. As such, the chapter argues, the HTICs raise questions endemic to all governance feminism projects: when and why is it worth it to compromise feminist aims?
Keywords: problem-solving courts, sex trafficking, prostitution, criminal court reform, governance feminism
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