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Safe Harbor Laws: Changing the Legal Response to Minors Involved in Commercial Sex, Phase 3. The Qualitative Analysis

NCJ Number
Date Published
December 2018
29 pages
This is the third and final phase of an evaluation of the impact of state safe harbor laws (SHLs) on the treatment of children as victims rather than offenders when they become involved in commercial sexual exploitation.
Phase 1 was a legal review that addressed the evolution of SHLs in the United States. Phase 2 used elements of the legal review to assess SHLs, using a quasi-experimental, longitudinal design to compare counties that have and have not implemented SHLs over the period 2005-15. Phase 3, which is the focus of the current report, was an in-depth, qualitative assessment of two states, one that implemented SHLs with positive outcomes (state A) and one that implemented SHLs without showing positive outcomes (state B). The goal was to identify the implementation processes within each state to identify themes, gaps, key processes, and best practices associated with effective outcomes for SHLs. The contrasts between the two sites suggest a few key recommendations for effective implementation of SHLs. First, leadership from the state law enforcement agency was essential to success in state A. In state B, interviewees reported hope that a new prioritization by the attorney general will produce better outcomes than have occurred since ratification of the laws. Second, a state coordinating body must be empowered with functional influence. Third, it was important to frame the public dissemination of the policy changes around a new and consistent definition of the victim. In state A, this was effective in motivating local and state law enforcement personnel in taking action. Fourth, securing financial resources to fund organizations that can fill the gaps between the intent of the legislation and the real-world practical solutions is critical to success. 1 table, 1 figure, 23 references, and appended interview guide

Date Published: December 1, 2018