Prostitution and related offenses are now being handled differently in Buffalo City Court. Chief Judge Thomas Amodeo on Thursday announced the start of the Human Trafficking Intervention Part.
Given that many people charged with prostitution are victims of trafficking who are forced into the sex industry, Amodeo says court mandated services will be tailored to each individual.
"A wide range of services have been made available to us, from safe housing, education, health care, immigration assistance [and] job training. They'll be available as an effort to provide the victim with a meaningful alternative to what they're doing," Amodeo said.
The court is held once a week. In the past month, Amodeo says presiding judge Amy Martoche has seen 15 individuals. He says by treating defendants as trafficking victims, the goal is to help them escape a life of torture and abuse.
Partners in the initiative include the International Institute. Director Eva Hassett says the public can help stop trafficking.
"We need to be as sophisticated as we can and aware as we can that if you see something that doesn't look right, chances are sometimes it isn't right," said Hassett.
Amodeo says the city is not incurring any additional costs for the program.