Las Vegas Sun

October 22, 2014

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Editorial: Help for teen prostitutes

In Family Court after another Wednesday morning, the time set aside for cases involving underage prostitution, Clark County prosecutor Mary Brown couldn't stop herself from saying, "What the hell kind of world do we live in? That's what I want to know."

Las Vegas Sun reporter Sam Skolnik was there and recorded the response of Judge William Voy. "He buried his head in his hands, shaking it several times before standing up and leaving the courtroom," Skolnik wrote for a story published Sunday.

We can't blame the judge for not having the words to answer Brown. In his court on Wednesday mornings are young girls and the occasional boy rescued from the streets by juvenile authorities. The stories behind the children - many of which involve running away from home to avoid physical or sexual abuse, and then hooking up with pimps who rent them out to pedophiles - are what led Brown and Voy, each in their own way, to vent some anger.

Voy's Wednesday morning court sessions began in August 2005 after the judge, prosecutors, public defenders, police, probation officers and social workers agreed that the youths deserved alternative sentences, most involving treatment and counseling. "It finally dawned on me that these girls are victims, and we've all agreed on that," Voy told Skolnik.

We support this approach, as the stories behind most of these children reveal that they had few alternatives in life except to strike out on their own, only to find themselves being victimized all over again.

There is one more critical step, however, that needs to be taken.

While their cases are waiting to be heard, most of these children are locked up - for weeks or even months - at the Juvenile Detention Center. Secure and well-supervised safe houses, located in residential neighborhoods, have so far been rejected by Clark County. But we believe that in such environments, rehabilitation would begin much sooner and the chances for success would be much greater.

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