Thursday, March 16, 2017
Amy Cohen & Aya Gruber, Governance Feminism in New York's Alternative "Human Trafficking Intervention Courts"
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?
Co-author Amy Cohen also has a second article on the history of the New York prostitution courts. Trauma and the Welfare State: A Genealogy of Prostitution Courts in New York City, Texas L. Rev. (forthcoming).
At least since the early twentieth century, informal specialized prostitution courts have tried to double as social welfare agencies. For this reason, prostitution courts illustrate in particularly explicit ways how public welfare administration and criminal court administration share similar ideas and practices and how these ideas and practices reinvent themselves over time. The article traces three moments of prostitution court reform in New York City: the New York Women’s Court that opened in Manhattan in 1910, the Midtown Community Court that opened in Manhattan in 1993, and four new prostitution courts that opened in New York City in 2013. It examines how court reformers in each moment use informal procedure to promote social welfare, social control, and individual responsibility, and it ties each approach to changing conceptions of the American welfare state. Ultimately, the article argues that the genealogy of prostitution courts illuminates for the present how court reformers are using the language of trauma to negotiate the welfare logics of today.
See also Mae Quinn, Ann Moscowitz Kross and the Home Term Part: A Second Look at the Nation's First Criminal Domestic Violence Court, 41 Akron L.Rev. 733 (2008)