Turn to Tara: Carlucci calls for hearings on inner-workings of state's Justice Center

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HAWTHORNE -

A local lawmaker is looking into what could have been done to prevent young, troubled girls at a Westchester residential treatment center from being pulled into a sex trafficking ring.      

The disturbing details were unveiled in a federal indictment last month.

Hawthorne Cedar Knolls is now shuttered but the fallout is still far from over. Federal officials said back in December that the lower Westchester residential treatment center was a popular recruiting ground for sex traffickers.

As the new chairman of the Mental Health Committee of the New York State Senate, Sen. David Carlucci says he plans to take action and call for hearings on the inner-workings of the state's Justice Center.

When it was established in 2013, the initiative was "the first of its kind in the nation" - an agency to ensure that people with special needs in New York are protected from abuse, neglect and mistreatment. Its inspector general and prosecutors were even assigned special powers to investigate alongside local district attorneys.

"We have to make sure the Justice Center, with its intent to make sure this type of abuse doesn't happen, we have to make sure it’s working,” says Carlucci.

Carlucci says the concern came up after federal prosecutors shared the horrid details last month of an underage sex trafficking ring.  The suspects were charged with luring nine girls as young as 13 from the Hawthorne Cederal Knolls campus to a life in the sex trade in New York City.

A top FBI agent also highlighted the problem in the recent special series, Slavery In Suburbia. News 12 submitted more than 200 public document requests and created a map that pinpoints the surprising locations where trafficking is most common across the Hudson Valley.

A young survivor also told News 12 that she too turned to a local residential treatment center for help, but months later wound up back in the sex trade.

When asked to react to Carlucci's calls for hearings, a spokesperson for the Justice Center told News 12 that they operate at the highest standards, coordinate regularly with elected officials and take allegations of abuse very seriously.

 

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