Metro area prosecutors take new approach to prostitution cases

12:28 PM, Feb 26, 2011   |    comments
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  • Metro area prosecutors take new approach to prostitution cases
  • Metro area prosecutors take new approach to prostitution cases
  • Metro area prosecutors take new approach to prostitution cases
    

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- It was not at all a life Courtney imagined for herself.

"I always imagined that I'd be a lawyer one day," says Courtney.

But drugs and alcohol led Courtney into an underground lifestyle and for more than five years, she was a prostitute. Her first date happened when she was just 15 years old.

"It was exciting to feel like you were living a double life," she says.

Courtney's pimp marketed her services on line and took her money. After years of abuse, she finally got away.

"I just believed that I was worthless and that prostitution was going to be the rest of my life," says Courtney.

Courtney and other former prostitutes shared their stories Friday as several metro area county prosecutors rolled out a new initiative to fight juvenile prostitution.

Traditionally, kids arrested for prostitution are charged with a crime and go through the court system, only to come back again.

These Minnesota prosecutors say that doesn't work. And starting now, they'll take a different approach to these cases, a kind of prosecutorial triage where county attorneys evaluate child prostitution cases and do not charge the children criminally, instead getting them social service help.

"It's our belief that to do the right thing is to not treat these children as criminals or delinquents, but to treat them as victims," says Ramsey County Attorney John Choi.

A recent study done nationally by a group called the Women's Funding Network found that in August 2010, 124 girls were exploited for prostitution in Minnesota. That was a 55 percent increase in just six months.

"It's been driven out of the central cities and not it's everyone's problem," says Washington County Attorney Peter Orput.

The idea is to tackle the problem from ground level and avoid the stigma of being labeled a criminal, giving kids other options, like Courtney had. She is now living in a safe house and is going to school with her whole life ahead of her.

"I'm glad I went through everything I went through because today there is no way that I would let anyone come into my life and make me feel like I'm anything less than a woman," says Courtney.

 

(Copyright 2011 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)

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