Former prosecutor Lucy Lang, who’s hoping to take over her old boss’s seat in a crowded contest for Manhattan District Attorney, wants to bring a renewed focus to human trafficking cases if she gets elected and pledged to expand resources for survivors.
“For far too long, human traffickers have terrorized our most vulnerable communities – exploiting people in Manhattan for profit,” Lang wrote in a Tuesday news release.
“Enough is enough: Manhattan can no longer serve as a hub for human traffickers. My plan prioritizes the wellbeing of survivors while aggressively pursuing the traffickers who exploit them.”
Lang, a former top Manhattan prosecutor who left the post to become a director at John Jay College, wants to strengthen the Human Trafficking Response Unit and plans to take a “survivor-centered, trauma-informed” approach to cases.
She pledged to bring more dollars and resources to the HTRU so they’ll be able to dismantle “the complex networks that foster exploitation” and proactively build cases. She she also wants to expand prosecution efforts to include both sex and labor exploitation.
“Labor trafficking made up over 11% of all New York trafficking cases in 2019. Workers are regularly exploited through illegal and unconscionably low wages, dangerous working conditions, and exploitative power structures, and Lucy will prioritize the safety of our most vulnerable laborers,” a news release on the plan states.
Lang also wants to expand the use and scope of both U-visas and T-visas, which give undocumented survivors temporary permission to stay in the country if they’ve been exploited and agree to help law enforcement build cases against perpetrators. The candidate wants to “expand the circumstances” that allow survivors to seek those visas through the DA’s office.
Along with advocating for better laws, Lang also wants to expunge the records of survivors for crimes they committed at the behest of traffickers or that were related to their exploitation. Experts have told The Post that many trafficking survivors are forced to commit crimes, unrelated to prostitution, by their exploiters.
“Survivors should not be saddled with a conviction for a non-prostitution-related offense that is likewise associated with their exploitation. Lucy will advocate for legislation that permits the expungement of such convictions, after the court hears from victims of the offense and finds expungement to be in the interest of justice,” the press release explains.
A new bill to decriminalize sex work, set to be introduced by Sen. Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan), includes a provision to expunge such crimes.
Meanwhile, long-shot candidate and reality TV star Eliza Orlins wants outright legalization of the sex trade in New York, a move that experts have said could make human trafficking cases harder to prosecute and could lead to more violence.
In a news release sent last Wednesday, Orlins outlined her policy for decriminalizing sex work.
“Criminalization of sex work doesn’t keep our city safe — it forces New Yorkers to avoid hospitals, social services, and law enforcement out of fear of prosecution,” Orlins wrote in the release.
“Sex work is work. And when workers in any profession are afraid of being prosecuted, they don’t come forward to seek help. As district attorney, I will never charge a person for making a decision about what to do with their body.”
So far, eight candidates are vying for the job. The primary is set for late June.
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