CATCH Court Provides Beacon Of Hope For Human Trafficking Victims

July 15, 2019

At the very end of a long municipal court hallway that mostly smells of sweat and despair, Vanessa Perkins turns slowly as she tries to decide where to sit for a quick afternoon break.

She looks to the left, to the right and back left again before she finally settles on a low-slung table. All the shabby blue chairs are doubles and would put her too close to people. And right now what Perkins needs most is space.

It has been an emotional day inside Courtroom 12C at the Franklin County Municipal Court building, where she is bailiff for Judge Paul Herbert. On most days, she does the same as any bailiff here: manages misdemeanor caseloads, handles the paperwork and deals with the myriad of problems that arise.

But this is a Thursday, and Thursdays and Fridays are different. That’s when Judge Herbert presides over CATCH Court (Changing Actions To Change Habits), a specialty docket for women in the system who are victims of human trafficking. After a lifetime of abuse, years of battling alcoholism and drug addiction and thousands of days running the streets of Franklinton, Perkins was among the first to graduate after CATCH started a decade ago this fall. Now, she is its highest officer.

On this recent day, about 16 current women of CATCH — gathered in a relaxed semicircle with the judge sitting on a chair near them, and Perkins and a probation officer sitting close by — were asking one another questions as part of peer-to-peer work. A woman named Jamie Vanover asked Perkins for advice. As per custom in this court, however, the first question posed was: “How many days you got?”

To read the full story by Holly Zachariah on The Columbus Dispatch: Click Here

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