TARGET: SEX TRAFFICKING & PROSTITUTION

An exclusive look at a sex trafficking court located in the heart of Queens’ massage parlor industry. Find out how law enforcement and various agencies are working together to change the way women are prosecuted for prostitution.

For information on where you can watch “Blowin’ Up,” click here.

Aired on June 19, 2019. 

TRANSCRIPT

GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'

I'M RAFAEL PI ROMAN.

BLOWN UP IS A FASCINATING DOCUMENTARY WHICH PROFILES THE WOMEN WHO RUN AND COME BEFORE THE QUEENS HUMAN TRAFFICKING INTERVENTION COURT.

THE FIRST PROBLEM SOLVING COURT IN THE COUNTRY ATTEMPTING TO REDRESS THE WAY WOMEN AND YOUNG GIRLS DID ARRESTED FOR PROSTITUTION ARE SHUFFLED THROUGH OUR JUSTICE SYSTEM.

WITH UNPARALLELED ACCESS TO THE COURT, THE FILM CAP CAPTURES WHAT IT IS LIKE FOR THESE DEFENDANTS OVERWHELMING UNDOCUMENTED ASIAN IMMIGRANTS AND WOMEN OF COLOR TO GO THROUGH THE COMPLEX CRIMINAL PROCEEDINGS.

HERE'S A LOOK.

THIS CHARGE IS A DEPORTABLE OFF OFFENSE.

SHE WAS IN CRISIS AND HE JUST LIKE SWOOPED IN.

HE SLEEPS WITH HER PASSPORT WITH, HER I.D., HER SOCIAL SECURITY CARD.

I CAN'T SAY THE THAT EVERY WOMAN WHO COMES THROUGH THE COURT IS GOING TO GET THE EXACT HELP THEY NEED.

I HAVE A BOYFRIEND.

WAIT, WHAT?

WE ARE GOING TO GRANT AN EARLY --

YEA.

CALLED BLOWING UP WHEN YOU LEAVE A PIMP.

I BLEW UP AND I WENT HOME.

AND JOINING US NOW IS DIRECTOR OF BLOWNUP.

WELCOME TO THE PROGRAM.

THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME RAFAEL.

RIGHT FROM THE START, YOU TAKE US INTO THE MIDDLE OF THIS QUEENS COURT WITHOUT NARRATION, WITHOUT EXPLANATION AND WE'RE THERE WITH PEOPLE THAT WE DON'T KNOW WHO THEY ARE.

I WAS WONDERING IF THAT WAS INTENTIONAL, IF YOU WANTED TO GET TO US FEEL A LITTLE BIT OF WHAT THE WOMEN DEFENDANTS WHO ARE ABOUT TO FACE THE COURT ARE FEELING.

YEAH, YOU KNOW, WHEN I FIRST EXPERIENCED THIS COURTROOM THE FIRST TIME THAT I OBSERVED IT AT WORK, I ALSO FELT THAT WAY AND I WAS JUST KNOW, TRYING TO FIGURE OUT WHAT ARE DO THESE TERMS MEAN WHO, ARE THESE PEOPLE, WHO IS DOING WHAT, WHO IS A DEFENDANT.

SO IT IS A PLACE THAT IS A BUREAUCRATIC PLACE THAT IS VERY CONFUSING.

SO I WANT ODD GIVE VIEWERS AND AUDIENCES A FEELING OF WHAT THAT MUST FEEL LIKE TO COME INTO A PLACE LIKE THIS.

I EXPECTED THE STEREOTYPES, THE JADED JUDGE, THE JADED PROSECUTOR, THE OVERWORKED PUBLIC DEFENDANT TRYING TO COP A PLEA.

INSTEAD, YOU FIND A JUDGE AND PROSECUTOR TREATING THE DEFENDANTS AS HUMAN BEINGS IN DISTRESS RATHER THAN CRIMINALS.

YOU SEE THE LAWYERS AND SOCIAL COUNSELORS TREATING THEM LIKE FAMILY.

WHAT KIND OF COURT IS THIS?

IT'S A PROBLEM SOLVING COURT, THE FIRST COURT OF ITS KIND IN OUR NATION TRYING TO CHANGE THE WAY WOMEN WHO ARE ARRESTED FOR PROSTITUTION ARE PROSECUTED.

AND I WAS ATTRACTED, AS WELL TO THIS SPACE BECAUSE OF THE DEEP HUMANITY AT THE CORE OF THIS INSTITUTION.

YOU KNOW, WE ALL HAVE INSTITUTIONS SURROUNDING US IN EVERY WAY, SHAPE, OR FORM IN OUR LIVES.

I THINK AT THE CORE OF THESE THERE ARE PEOPLE RUNNING THEM AND IF PEOPLE ARE REALLY GOOD AND TRYING TO CHANGE THE WAY THAT THESE INSTITUTIONS ARE RUN, IT'S A WHOLE DIFFERENT KIND OF PLACE.

HAD YOU DID YOU GET THE ACCESS TO THE COURT AND TO THE PEOPLE WHO YOU WOULD ASSUME WOULD NOT WANT TO BE FLIPPED?

SO MAKING A FILM LIKE THIS AS YOU CAN IMAGINE, IS VERY CHALLENGING.

YEAH.

NO ONE WANTED TO BE IN THE FILM.

NO ONE WANTED TO PARTICIPATE IN THE FILM.

SO IT TOOK US ABOUT TEN MONTHS OF OBSERVATION AND DEVELOPMENT AND RESEARCH AND BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS WITH EVERYONE IN THE COURT BEFORE WE WERE EVEN ALLOWED TO BRING CAMERAS INTO THE SPACE.

AND THEN ONCE CAMERAS WERE BROUGHT IN, IT WASN'T LIKE WE WERE GIVEN CARTE BLANCHE TO FILM EVERYTHING WE WANTED TO.

EVERY MORNING, I WOULD MAKE AN ANNOUNCEMENT IN ENGLISH AND MANDARIN LETTING THEM NODE WHAT WE WERE DOING HERE AND THEY HAD A CHOICE WHETHER OR NOT THEY WANTED TO PARTICIPATE.

AND MOST PEOPLE SAID NO.

SO FOR US, A GOOD DAY OUT OF 90 CASES WAS ONE OR TWO WOMEN SAYING YES.

WE'RE DEALING WITH A SUBJECT MATTER THAT HAS BEEN EXTREMELY STEREOTYPED AND MISREPRESENTED IN THE MEDIA.

THEY ARE WORDS THAT ARE THROWN ON THESE WOMEN AND THEY R SQUARED AND FEARFUL OF THE REPERCUSSIONS OF THESE WORDS.

ALL THESE WOMEN WHO RUN THE COURT AND WORK IN THE COURT, THEY WORK TOGETHER VERY WELL.

YOU CAN SEE IT IN THE FILM TO HELP THE DEFENDANTS.

I GET THE SENSE THEY DON'T ALL AGREE WITH EACH OTHER.

AT ONE TIME YOU SEE I LIE ZAL TALKING TO CANDY AND TELLING HER IF YOU GET BACK TO THE LIFE, MAKE SURE YOU DO IT IN A WAY THAT YOU WON'T GET ARRESTED.

NO JUDGMENT HERE.

I CAN'T SEE THE JUDGE SAYING THAT OR SOME OF THE PROSECUTORS SAYING THAT.

AM I GETTING THAT RIGHT?

YOU KNOW, WHEN THAT HAPPENED WHEN I WAS FILMING THAT, I WAS ALSO SHOCKED SHE WAS SAYING THAT.

I WAS LIKE WOW, I WONDER HOW EVERYONE ELSE IS GOING TO FEEL ABOUT THIS.

EVERYONE'S JUST DOING THE BEST JOB THEY CAN GIVEN THEIR ROLE IN THE SYSTEM BECAUSE AT THE END OF THE DAY, NO MATTER WHAT THEIR DILEMMA IS OR HOW THEY FEEL WHAT'S GOING ON FOR THE WOMEN AND GIRLS, THEIR BOTTOM LINE SHARED GOAL IS TO HELP THESE WOMEN IN ANY WAY, SHAPE, OR FORM THEY CAN.

AT THE END OF THE FILM IT'S A DISTURBING SCENE WHEN WE SEE AN I.C.E. AGENTS ENTER THE COURT IN ORDER TO ARREST SOME OF THESE WOMEN TO LATER DEPORT THEM.

HOW CAN THE COURT CONTINUE TO SURVIVE OR EXIST AS A SAFE SPACE FOR THESE WOMEN WHEN THEY CAN'T PROTECT THESE WOMEN FROM I.C.E.

AGENTS THAT WANT TO THE TAKE THEM AND DEPORT THEM?

YEAH, THAT MOMENT IN THE FILMING PROCESS IS REALLY, REALLY SCARY AND CHALLENGING.

AND YOU REALLY FEEL THE FRAGILITY OF THIS SMALLIE COSYSTEM THAT THEY CREATED IN THIS SMALL CORNER OF NEW YORK.

WHETHER OR NOT IT CAN SURVIVE OR NOT, I DON'T KNOW.

THE COURT IS STILL THERE?

THIS COURT STILL EXISTS AND THE WOMEN ARE STILL BEING ARRESTED AND I.C.E. STILL EXISTS AND TRUMP IS STILL IN POWER.

SO ALL THESE WOMEN WHO ARE IN THE COURT CAN DO IS CONTINUE TO DO THEIR BEST, GIVEN THE MANY EXTENUATING CIRCUMSTANCES THAT MAKING THIS WHOLE SYSTEM SO CHALLENGING FOR WOMEN AND GIRLS.

STEPHANIE, IT'S AN AMAZING FILM.

A WONDERFUL FILM.

YOU TOLD ME SOMETHING THAT SURPRISED ME WHICH IS WOMEN ARE COMING TO SEE IT BUT NOT THAT MANY MEN.

I CAN'T UNDERSTAND THAT BECAUSE THIS IS CERTAINLY NOT A WOMEN'S FILM BUT FOR ALL HUMAN BEINGS.

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR MAKING IT AND JOINING US.

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR HAVING US.

FOR INFORMATION ON HOW STUCK WATCH 'BLOWN UP' VISIT OUR WEBSITE AT METROFOCUS.ORG.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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