Some court representatives and partners can be an essential part of task force operations. With the often complex intersection of criminal and civil dynamics of trafficking cases, court representatives may be an important voice when task forces provide a coordinated response to trafficking cases. These representatives may encounter victims as witnesses or as defendants.
Prosecutors work with trafficking victims and law enforcement on criminal cases to build a strong case against traffickers. Furthermore, prosecutors are the gatekeeper to diversion. If a victim-defendant is identified, they have the discretion to defer or decline prosecution and instead link the victim-defendant to crucial services. The role of the prosecutor is critical and might involve the following functions:
Within a task force, prosecutors can collaborate with organizations that may identify victims who do not come through law enforcement, potentially coordinating case-related needs. A prosecutor’s perspective may be essential in ensuring that task force policies and protocols help build strong cases rather than producing potentially negative impacts.
Example: The County of Los Angeles Probation Department has a Child Trafficking Unit that works collaboratively with social service agencies to develop intervention and prevention strategies for youth who are at risk of sexual exploitation.
Probation officers may interact with victims at multiple points of the court process:
Victim Service Providers
Example: Chicago Prostitution and Trafficking Intervention Court
In Cook County, IL, home to Chicago, the State’s Attorney’s Office created a specialized deferred prosecution program that diverts victim-defendants away from traditional prosecution and incarceration and toward treatment and services. This new response to prostitution-related cases, the Chicago Prostitution and Trafficking Intervention Court, offers graduated levels of trauma-informed services provided by the local Christian Community Health Program. A single judge in the Domestic Violence Court monitors all cases, and all charges are dismissed upon successful completion of the court mandated program.
In some states, victim service providers are considered court personnel because they are co-located within the district attorney’s office. Although this is not the case for all areas, victim service providers may be key partners that have integrated roles within the court system, such as:
Victim service providers are noted in previous chapters as essential participants in task forces. However, it is important to recognize that their role within the court system enables them to integrate a victim advocacy perspective throughout the criminal justice process as well as the social services process.
For additional resources, visit Resources Chapter 6.