Post-implementation of a Safe Harbor law in the U.S. Review of state administrative data

Jennifer Cole, Ginny Sprang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Background: Safe harbor laws have been implemented to change the way systems of care respond to juveniles exploited in commercial sex in the U.S., yet there is little research on the way these laws have impacted the identification and rehabilitation of juveniles. Objective: Using administrative data, this study investigates the impact of a safe harbor law enacted in one state in the U.S. Participants and Setting: This study examines secondary data on juveniles with prostitution-related charges from 2007 to 2017 (n = 17); juveniles who were screened for human trafficking by juvenile court personnel (n = 56,937); (3) screenings for human trafficking with juveniles in the juvenile justice system (n = 12,223); and (4) juveniles who were reported to the child welfare agency as possible victims of human trafficking (n = 697). The number of criminal cases of human trafficking involving victims under the age of 18 years old from 2007 to 2017 were analyzed by calendar year (n = 61). Methods: Aggregate, administrative data was accessed and analyzed. Results: Findings show that juvenile justice and juvenile court personnel are screening for trafficking at an increasing rate and making referrals to the child welfare system as mandated by law. However, a relatively low percentage of these cases are substantiated, confirmed and/or result in criminal charges to the trafficker. Despite safe harbor mandates that prohibit the charging of juveniles with prostitution offenses, there is evidence that this is still occurring in small numbers. Conclusions: Based on these findings, researchers have identified next steps to facilitate future investigations of safe harbor laws.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104320
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
StatePublished - Mar 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Elsevier Ltd


  • Child
  • Human trafficking
  • Juvenile
  • Legislative reform
  • Sex trafficking of minors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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