Vanderbilt Law Review

First Page



Illinois has long struggled to contain what is the perfect storm for exploitation-a large city with consistent conventions, attractions with many tourists, significant amounts of population movement and immigration, access to major airports and interstates, and "entrenched gangs with an entrepreneurial bent." These factors make Chicago in particular an appealing destination for runaways and throwaways across the Midwest. In 2001, a study conservatively estimated that 16,000 to 25,000 women and girls are victims of commercial sexual exploitation in Chicago each year. By 2004, the New York Times had named Chicago a "hub" for sex trafficking. When Illinois was at the top of the list of states from which calls were made to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center for the second time in 2009, legislators insisted that something be done. Anita Alvarez, then Illinois State Attorney, initiated the Human Trafficking Initiative and began drafting the Illinois Safe Children Act. Deciding that treatment and social services were a better alternative than juvenile adjudication, the Act made all individuals under eighteen immune from prostitution-related charges and transferred authority over such children, who would now be considered "abused and neglected," to the Department of Children and Family Services ("DCFS").