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A handful of courts have started to treat people charged with prostitution differently from the rest of the system.These “problem-solving courts” courts screen defendants for signs of abuse and human trafficking.“This is an example of where I want you all to be in this program,” he tells the group. In CATCH Court, Herbert practices what he calls trauma-informed judging.He asks the women if they have anything to say to Melanie. “You have to be very, very careful that you're restorative in nature,” he explains.
These weekly court sessions are the core of a special program for victims of sex trafficking in Columbus.It’s not something you expect to see in a courtroom: 35 women, chatting, laughing, eating lasagna.But brunch before the session is a weekly tradition at an unusual court in Columbus, Ohio.The upbeat atmosphere is a stark contrast to the life that brought the participants here, one that still threatens to draw them back.
Presiding Judge Paul Herbert explains the security guards standing outside the courtroom today are here for a reason: “There was a guy that showed up that had trafficked one of our women.
“I would just give them the basic jail sentence and send them on their way,” he says.