In Loco Aequitatis: The Dangers of “Safe Harbor” Laws for Youth in the Sex Trades

Brendan M. Conner, In Loco Aequitatis: The Dangers of “Safe Harbor” Laws for Youth in the Sex Trades, Stan. J. C.R. & C.L.(forthcoming 2016).


The accompanying Article provides the first critical analysis of safe harbor laws, which rely on custodial arrests to prosecute or divert youth arrested for or charged with prostitution related offenses under criminal or juvenile codes to court supervision under state child welfare, foster care, or dependency statutes. This subject is a matter of intense debate nationwide, and on January 27, 2015 the House of Representatives passed legislation that would give preferential consideration for federal grants to states that have enacted a law that “discourages the charging or prosecution” of a trafficked minor and encourages court-ordered treatment and institutionalization. Nearly universally lauded, the sound bite of safe harbor’s proponents has obscured the truth of its potential impact: increasing arrests, extending the length of involuntary commitment, and ratifying a pattern of endemic law enforcement harassment and brutality. This Article offers new perspectives on the debate and examines challenges presented to legislators considering adoption of safe harbor laws.

Full article available here.

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