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Why did judge erase prostitute's legal record?

Judge Paul Herbert presents Yevette Graham with her certificate of graduation from CATCH court (Credit: The Columbus Dispatch/Chris Russell) A woman was forced into prostitution by human traffickers—not in Colombia or Nepal but in Columbus, Ohio.  There are 27 million victims of human trafficking worldwide—Julie Hatfield used to be one of them.  A gang used drugs and violence to force her to sell herself to strangers.  But now she is finally free.

She is the first person under Ohio's Human Trafficking law to request that her criminal record be erased.  Under a law signed by Gov. John Kasich last summer, trafficking victims can have their legal record expunged, with databases and hard drives erased and paper files destroyed.  Last Friday, Judge Paul Herbert determined that she met the criteria: she was compelled to engage in activities against her will, with no record prior and no record in the five years since she escaped.  So he told her: "I'm going to expunge each and every one of your prior convictions.  Congratulations."

Her message walking out of the courthouse a free woman: "You don't have to live that way.  There really is hope.  There's people that care for you.  You don't have to live in that shame or guilt anymore."

Proverbs 11:10 says, "When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices, and when the wicked perish there are shouts of gladness."  "Righteous" translates tsaddiqim (pronounced "tsad-de-keem"), those who are upright, just, honest, virtuous.  Judge Herbert is an example.

Amy Sherman's Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good highlights more Christians who are tsaddiqim.  She tells the story of a CEO who negotiated a corporate merger that avoided hundreds of layoffs.  A contractor created a work-release program in cooperation with a local prison, changing the lives of former inmates while growing his business.

How did Judge Herbert become tsaddiqim?  In 2008, he was using Rick Warren's The Purpose Driven Life to disciple his teenager daughters.  One night they turned the tables on him: "One asked me, 'Daddy, what's your purpose in life?'"  He asked God to show him how he could be significant for the Kingdom in his work on the bench.

He eventually launched CATCH Court ("Changing Attitudes to Change Habits"), in which prostitutes are sent to residential rehabilitation programs to detox and receive intensive therapy.  They report before Judge Herbert weekly and are monitored carefully.  So far, 72 women have participated; 66 percent have received no new charges.  Since 90 percent of women engaged in prostitution are victims of human trafficking, Judge Herbert says that prostitution is not the world's oldest profession but "the world's oldest oppression."  CATCH has saved Ohio nearly $1 million in jail costs and touched countless lives.

Does God need more tsaddiqim today?  What is your purpose in life?

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