I have just completed a report — available online at Issue Lab — on problem-solving treatment-based courts and diversion projects for individuals with prostitution offenses around the country. The work of the report began as I was spearheading efforts with Judge Paul Biebel, presiding judge of the Cook County Criminal Court, to begin the WINGS Project, a specialty treatment court for women in Cook County with felony prostitution offenses. This court (presided by Judge Rosemary Grant Higgins), like the others in the report, offers treatment and services in lieu of prison time or other punitive criminal penalties.
Spanning three years of work compiling and updating information, the report provides an overview of each of the court projects, the context of prostitution experiences in Cook County, background of problem-solving courts, a summary of findings and key recommendations for best practices.
While many of the court projects deal with a lack of funding and resources, they have been committed to providing substance abuse treatment services and trauma counseling, among other services, to participants. The programs range from 90 days to two years, depending on the type of court project and sentencing requirements, including correctional supervision time. Unlike Illinois, most states do not charge individuals with felony prostitution based on multiple prostitution offenses, resulting in a major difference between projects that may only charge with a misdemeanor or offer the program without the participant having to plea guilty at all. Program completion and recidivism rates vary greatly, but the outcomes lie not only in the numbers but in small steps that the participants are able to take to achieve safety, sobriety, and stability.
This report comes in the nick of time, as Wednesday, Nov. 21 is my last day at CCH. I have thoroughly enjoyed the work and the many accomplishments achieved through various steering committees and coalitions that I have been involved with in my time here. I plan to continue to carry forward the social justice work that I love. I wish all the best to those that I have to come in the eight years that I have served in the policy department at CCH.
– Daria Mueller, Associate Policy Director