The Human Trafficking Prevention, Protection and Treatment Act was passed in 2013, but New Jersey is far from implementing the intent of the legislature in curbing human trafficking and providing services to victims. This, despite the valiant efforts of advocates and law enforcement.
One provision that has been largely ignored by the Christie administration is the Prostitution Offender Program, also known as “Johns Schools” which create an offender-funded program that funds education for the offender, provides financial support to local law enforcement and also puts money in the state wide fund for victim services.
“Johns Schools” are a sentencing provision that send offenders to be educated about the affect of their actions, making them aware of the breadth and horror of human trafficking as well as the violence and exploitation inherent in the prostitution industry. They pay $500 for this program, which is distributed as $200 to the Human Trafficking Survivor Assistance Fund, $200 to implement the training and $100 to the arresting municipality.
Thus far no New Jersey county has implemented this provision, leaving significant money on the table that could be collected from offenders. This is entirely because of red tape and Governor Christie’s inattention to the needs of this vulnerable population, which include a significant number of children trafficked from other states within the United States, not merely children and adults trafficked from other nations. One school is set to be established by January of 2016. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of dollars are left in the pockets of those who are purchasing sex from underage and/or unwilling captives forced to perform for their pleasure at the threat of their lives and safety: money that could be providing shelter, clothing, food and rehabilitation to victims and equipment, overtime pay and training for municipalities. “Johns Schools” also seem to reduce recidivism and therefore lower the demand for sex trafficking. One study out of San Francisco demonstrated a reduction of reoffending from a rate of 8.8 percent to 4.5 percent over the decade of the study.
New Jersey must delve deeper into the provisions that the Human Trafficking Prevention, Protection and Treatment Act have made for the eventual reduction and elimination of trafficking within our state. Tools cease to be effective when left in drawers, and it’s time for Governor Christie to take out the hammer on this horrific and immeasurably devastating crime against human dignity. A first step is spotlighting the Prostitution Offender Program and creating state wide access to this opportunity to fund the efforts of advocates and law enforcement to protect our state and the struggling victims trafficked here against their will.
Lynda L. Hinkle, Esquire Bellmawr, New Jersey