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DA Gascón announces diversion program for human trafficking victims – Daily Bulletin

Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón announced Thursday, March 31, that he has joined forces with public defenders and nonprofit organizations to create a pilot diversion program for victims of human trafficking to help restore their lives. outside the criminal justice system.

The District Court’s first human trafficking diversification program will begin in Pomona court, with the hope of extending it to other areas of the Los Angeles county plagued by human trafficking, according to the Office of the Attorney General. District.

“The purpose of this program is very simple,” Gascon told a news conference. “It is to remove victims of human trafficking from the criminal justice system and into a holistic informed trauma care system. Adults and children alike are forced into human trafficking and become constantly vulnerable and extorted. Their hopes are dashed and their self-confidence is constantly violated and very often they are over-criminalized. But with our guidance and all these groups together, we can make a difference. ”

Los Angeles County Public Defender Ricardo García joined Gascon in announcing the court’s pilot program, which is in session every Thursday at the Pomona Supreme Court.

“For a very long time, young people forced into work, sexual exploitation and sex work for the benefit or benefit of others have been victimized by harsh treatment in our criminal justice system,” Garcia said. “In the past there was a belief and a practice that only criminal charges and imprisonment were the right answers for their exploitation-based behavior. “As public defenders, we have seen the destruction of many lives because of these ideas and practices.”

Variety of services

The diversion program will provide a range of services, including individual and group counseling on alcohol and substance abuse, mental health treatment, job training, career opportunities, educational and financial planning, youth services, and criminal records clearing. .

“Research shows that providing counseling, education and skills training to people involved in human trafficking redirects these individuals to a brighter and more productive path and also prevents recidivism in large numbers,” Garcia said.

These sentiments were echoed by Los Angeles County Alternative Public Defender Erika Anzoategui, whose office represents defendants accused of a crime she could not afford to hire a private lawyer and where Garcia’s office has a conflict of interest.

“This is a historic moment and a much needed program to help people,” she said. “I am glad that we have joined in a cooperative way to actually see the needs of our clients instead of imprisonment. “Imprisonment is not the answer to trauma.”

Individuals who have been identified as victims of trafficking and face charges of minor or non-serious, non-violent offenses are eligible for the program. Participants are referred to the Human Trafficking Court by defense attorneys, prosecutors, or law enforcement agencies.

A judge will approve the eligibility of each participant, who will be assigned to a community-based organization for treatment and services. Upon completion of the diversion program, the judge may dismiss and release the person’s arrest, convictions, and probation violations.

Most have no criminal history

Pallavi Garg, a lawyer for Free to Thrive, a nonprofit organization that provides legal and support services to victims of trafficking, said about 90% of the agency’s clients have a criminal record related to their trafficking experience. Most had never been arrested before being trafficked, she added.

“That’s exactly why this (trafficking) courtroom is essential,” Garg said. “When we talk to survivors, they say the same thing universally, that no one – neither police officers, nor defense lawyers, nor prosecutors, nor judges – ever stops to ask them why (they have no previous criminal record). ). “This allows traffickers to continue to recruit, feed and victimize more people while their other victims are serving long sentences.”

Claremont Mayor Jed Leano welcomed the program, adding that human trafficking is the biggest public security threat his city faces.

“This program is the right step forward to create an unhindered and direct pipeline for victims of trafficking and services that can end the cycle of violence and coercion,” he said.

DA Gascón announces diversion program for human trafficking victims – Daily Bulletin Source link DA Gascón announces diversion program for human trafficking victims – Daily Bulletin

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