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Batts placed ads for them online, took credit cards, screened potential clients and maintained an apartment where women took men to have sex. She was sentenced to five years for second-degree sex trafficking.

Batts had prior felony convictions that influenced her sentence.

In one of her columns, she describes helping police catch a man who abused her when she was 16 and living in a Juneau group home.

After that, she wrote, she felt an "aching emptiness." There were ways that sex work seemed like an answer to all that had happened to her. She had stretches of sobriety, punctuated with dark relapses when she abused pills and alcohol, she said.

Batts' court file held a number of letters of support from state and national sex workers' rights organizations.

What Batts was doing — screening clients with online background searches, providing a safe house for sex work to take place — they said, was "harm reduction" for women in a line of work that isn't going away.

Amber Batts, photographed in her room at the Glenwood Center halfway house in Anchorage on Thursday, Nov. Batts pleaded guilty and was convicted of sex trafficking in 2015. I contacted her in jail and, over a few visits, she told me about her life and how she understood sex work in Alaska.

Batts said she grew up in 14 foster homes and is a survivor of repeated episodes of abuse.

Batts is living in a halfway house and working in a restaurant kitchen. She's interested in doing some advocacy work for women in the sex trade when she gets out, she said. Amber Batts, photographed in her room at the Glenwood Center halfway house in Anchorage on Thursday, Nov. Batts pleaded guilty and was convicted of sex trafficking in 2015.

She and her husband, who was also convicted of sex trafficking, are no longer together. (Loren Holmes / Alaska Dispatch News)Amber Batts, photographed in her room at the Glenwood Center halfway house in Anchorage on Thursday, Nov. Batts pleaded guilty and was convicted of sex trafficking in 2015.

There are "john schools," programs that educate men who buy sex about how it hurts women.

Advocates, counselors and lawyers I talked to told me that women with histories of prostitution drift unnoticed in and out of the system.

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