Could a Franklin County Court become a national model for taking on human trafficking?
10TV has reported extensively on the special prostitution docket known as "CATCH Court", and Monday, the program was given a close look by a national justice group.
The sex trade is alive and well in the capital city.
It happens in plain view on our streets and in the darkest corners of the internet.
And while sex for sale is nothing new, the way law enforcement looks at it, is.
"Changing the culture of law enforcement is really difficult," said Andrea Boxill, Specialized Docket Program Coordinator for Franklin County Municipal Court.
She and Judge Paul Herbert have been on the leading edge of that effort in Franklin County.
CATCH Court is their venue.
"The women in our program - the average number of rapes is five,” she said.
Boxill and Herbert are challenging every level of local law enforcement, from street cops to prosecutors to judges- to recognize prostitutes not as criminals but as victims.
“What we've found from our women is the average age of sexual abuse is eight and a half,” said Boxill. “Instead of seeing the 35 year old, the 40 year old, the 50 year old who's out there beaten like you saw in these pictures, see an eight and a half year old and tell her that was her choice."
On Monday, Boxill pleaded her case to the Board of Directors of the State Justice Institute.
SJI was created by Congress, its members appointed by the President, to find and help fund solutions to problems facing the courts.
"Our state courts are really ill-prepared to deal with the impact of human trafficking," said SJI Executive Director Jonathan Mattiello.
As part of Boxill's presentation, she shared a 10TV segment on CATCH Court and its successes.
Mattiello said he liked what he saw.
"Very impressed, I think these types of programs are innovative," he said.
An endorsement by the State Justice Institute could position CATCH Court as a blueprint that could reach far outside of Franklin County.
"It's certainly something we would like to see expanded,” Mattiello said. “Right now we're trying to take a look at what programs are existing out there and how that can be replicated in other jurisdictions."
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