Our country tends to treat sex workers like, for lack of a better term, trash. Because sex work is largely illegal in the United States (the one exception is a handful of counties in Nevada, where prostitution is highly regulated), women who sell sex are often arrested and subject to brutal treatment by cops, which forces them to conduct their business in the shadows and puts them at further risk of violence at the hands of pimps and clients. Furthermore, the legal system often disregards whether sex workers are forced to sell sex against their will or do so of their own volition, which leads to a cultural narrative that women who sell sex are desperate and in need of rescue. As a result, sex workers are usually either treated by the criminal justice system as outright criminals or as victims with no agency.

The Human Trafficking Intervention Court in the Kew Gardens neighborhood of Queens, New York, however, is different. Presided over by Judge Toko Serita, the court takes a revolutionary approach to sentencing women who are arrested on prostitution charges, offering women the option to have their charges dismissed and their records sealed in exchange for undergoing a counseling program. As depicted in the documentary Blowin’ Up (out in New York theaters April 5th), Serita’s court is an anomaly in the often rigid and uncompromising criminal justice system: instead of treating sex workers like criminals or helpless victims in need of salvation, she merely treats them like human beings.

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‘Blowin up’ suggests we treat Sex Workers as humans, not criminals by EJ Dickson

April 5th, 2019