Fearless Questions

Following our Questions to Freedom

Episode 21: Judge Paul Herbert

What comes to mind for you when I say the word ‘Prostitute’?

A woman walking the city streets?

Dirty hotel rooms?

Perhaps a more glamorous version…like Julia Roberts in the 1990 film Pretty Woman?

What if I told you that a prostitute is actually a victim of the sex trafficking industry?

Because they are.

Perhaps like many others, you wonder how that can be the case.  Isn’t it just two consenting adults taking part in one of the oldest industries in the world?  Actually…No.

I hope you’ll take a few minutes today and listen in to my conversation with Judge Paul Herbert of Franklin County (Ohio).  Paul is the founder of a specialized probation program called C.A.T.C.H. Court…which stands for ‘Changing Actions to Change Habits’.  “CATCH court exists to break the cycle of abuse for victims of human trafficking, prostitution, and sexual exploitation by providing resources, community, and accountability.” (1)  

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, right, gives Judge Paul Herbert the Governor’s Courage Award during the State of the State address at the Sandusky State Theatre, Tuesday, April 4, 2017, in Sandusky, Ohio. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)

Judge Herbert started CATCH Court in 2009. One day he saw a woman come in with bruises and thought it was a domestic violence victim. He looked down at the file and saw she was a defendant — the charge: “prostitution”. It hit him that with similar bruises and hollow eyes, it was hard to tell the difference between a victim of domestic violence and a defendant charged with prostitution. He began to research human trafficking, prostitution, and sexual exploitation. What he discovered astounded him. Human trafficking was thriving in Columbus, Ohio, and there were limited means of escaping the cycle of exploitation and abuse. He created CATCH Court to provide a path of rehabilitation, recovery, and support.

William Wilberforce famously fought an incredibly difficult battle throughout his life to end the slave trade in England.  If you have any respect for the story and struggle of Wilberforce…the way he fought through the legal and political systems of England and consistently advocated for human beings whom others discarded…then I beg you to lend me your ears and hear the battle of a modern day abolitionist in Paul Herbert.

So many of us turn away from this conversation because it seems too heavy…But if you would be willing to listen…I promise that you will never see these issues the same again.  And I think you’ll find that there is indeed hope to be found…and a way forward that benefits all of us.

In Judge Herbert’s words:  “One thing I want to tell people is…that a lot of people realize this enslavement of human beings is horrible and awful…and it is…but when the victims get freed…to see the resiliency of these women…to see what they can become and their potential realized…it’s probably the most glorious thing that’s happened to me in my life.”

I’m a huge fan of Paul and the work that he is doing to change the way our nation treats and restores those in our society that have been mistreated so badly.  I see the world differently after getting to know Paul…and I hope that after listening today that you’ll see things differently as well.

(1)Quotes from www.catchcourt.org, May 2017.

Links to check out:



http://www.10tv.com/article/catch-court-changing-way-law-looks-sex-trade-business (Great 11 minute video segment from Local Columbus, Ohio news station…Worth watching if you have the time!)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fFT0qgZYj4c (Innovation Awards presentation snippet of Paul)

About Jeff Blackburn

Jeff Blackburn is a Spiritual Coach and passionate Truth-Seeker. An alumnus of Oxford University, Jeff is someone who advocates for Freedom and Fullness of Life for All. He believes Jesus offers good news for people everywhere today…not just eternity. Jeff is the Executive Director of Fearless Questions, Inc. and has spent the past 20 years working with people searching for God.