There are more than 3,000 minors in the state’s juvenile justice system, and many are victims of human trafficking.
“For the better part of 10 years, I’ve been advocating here in Clark County for a safe house for our sexually exploited youth,” said Judge William Voy, Clark County District Court.
If the judge’s wishes become a reality, the safe house would be the first of its kind in the state, specifically helping young victims of human trafficking who get caught up in the juvenile justice system.
“We have to identify better which kids really need to be locked up, sort of speak’ with the kids who don’t,” according to Judge Voy.
Judge Voy says he doesn’t believe children who have been busted for prostitution should be behind bars because often they have been sexually exploited. Voy says a rehabilitation center, including a safe house, would provide the much-needed help for what he describes as the most vulnerable population.
Judge Voy says rather than a detention center they’ve identified that the state needs a therapeutic, staff-secured facility to keep these children. He said if the state doesn’t get this kind of facility it risks losing the kids to the streets all over again.
Voy says early intervention is key. Young victims of human trafficking are from all backgrounds, but the majority of them come from broken homes.
“It’s not just this lack of support in the family, but the other major factor is a loss that they feel,” Voy said. “They’re looking for something out there. Most of them — a lot of them have been sexually exploited before they get out on the streets.”
When it comes to making the safe house a reality; there’s one major roadblock.
“The money has not been there,” the judge said.
Judge Voy says law enforcement in Clark County has been supportive in treating kids busted for prostitution as victims, not criminals. But some children still face legal consequences.