This Article provides the first critical analysis of safe harbor laws, which rely on custodial arrests to prosecute or divert youth arrested for or charged with prostitution related offenses under criminal or juvenile codes to court supervision under state child welfare, foster care, or dependency statutes. This subject is a matter of intense debate nationwide, and on May 29, 2015 the President signed legislation that would give preferential consideration for federal grants to states that have enacted a law that "discourages the charging or prosecution" of a trafficked minor and encourages court-ordered treatment and institutionalization. Nearly universally lauded, the sound bite of safe harbor's proponents has obscured the truth of its potential impact: increasing arrests through a net-widening effect, extending the length of court supervision and institutionalization, and perpetuating endemic law enforcement harassment and brutality against these young people. This Article offers new perspectives on the debate and examines challenges presented to legislators considering adoption of safe harbor laws.

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12 Stanford Journal of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties 43-119 (2016)