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Safe Harbor Laws: Changing the Legal Response to Minors Involved in Commercial Sex, Phase 2. The Quantitative Analysis

NCJ Number
Date Published
December 2018
37 pages
This second of three phases of an evaluation of state safe harbor laws (SHLs) uses elements of the legal review (Phase 1) to conduct a quantitative assessment of SHLs, using a quasi-experimental, longitudinal design to compare counties that have and have not implemented SHLs over an 11-year period (2005-15); phase 3 will make an in-depth assessment of two states, one that implemented SHLs with positive findings and one that implemented SHLs with no positive results.
State SHLs have been enacted with the intent of ensuring that minors involved in commercial sexual exploitation are treated as victims rather than criminals. Although estimates of the incidence and prevalence of the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) continue to be elusive, researchers can presume the seriousness of the problem based on the exponential increase in the number of traffickers and solicitors arrested and prosecuted on suspicion of CSEC. Children typically first become victims of commercial sexual exploitation from ages 12 to 14. SHLs are designed primarily to prohibit the arrest and prosecution of such children as criminals and the provision of services that address their victimization and rehabilitative needs. The current study used a non-randomized, quasi-experimental design to compare prostitution-related crime trends and sexual abuse maltreatment trends at the county level in states that have implemented SHLs with prostitution-related arrest and sexual abuse maltreatment trends in a control group of counties in states that have not implemented SHLs. Overall, the findings indicate that the decline in the number of total and juvenile-only arrests across all prostitution-related offenses suggests that states with SHLs did supplant the more traditional punitive approach to minors who are victims of these crimes with a more victim-oriented approach. 3 tables, 3 figures, 77 references, and 14 bibliographic listings

Date Published: December 1, 2018