Ending felony prostitution in Illinois: Women survivors in our Survivor Advocacy Group Empowered (SAGE) helped CCH secure legislative support for a 2013 law that ends felony-level charges for prostitution in Illinois. Legislators cited the pivotal testimony of SAGE leader Glenda Sykes in persuading them to switch their votes in support of the End Demand Illinois bill (SB 1872).

Statewide impact: Working with survivors, PART staff led Springfield advocacy for End Demand Illinois, passing three bills in three years — the 2010 “Illinois Safe Children Act,” the 2011 “Justice for Victims of Sex Trafficking Crimes Act” that allows a trafficked person to have a court vacate their convictions; and 2012 legislation strengthening the state’s anti-trafficking laws (House Bill 5278).

Cook County prostitution court: PART co-led planning for the new Cook County felony prostitution court, a first for the Midwest. The WINGS Court held its first monthly session on January 21, 2011. PART ran the policy research, bringing service providers and advocates to the table. They worked together with criminal court officials to address the needs of prostituted women, offering probation and rehab services to women without a violent record who want life-changing alternatives to prison. As planning was finalized in 2010, PART organized 50 prostitution survivors to offer feedback through shelter-based focus groups.

Decriminalizing arrested youth: PART has been active on End Demand Illinois, a campaign led by the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE). Working from Springfield, PART led the advocates who worked in the state capital to promote End Demand’s first bill, a 2010 state law that bars filing criminal prostitution charges against minors younger than age 18. It requires law enforcement officials to treat prostituted minors as victims of commercial sexual exploitation: Instead of filing criminal charges, authorities must place a prostituted juvenile in temporary protective custody and notify the Department of Children and Family Services to open a child abuse case within 24 hours. The Illinois law is the most progressive in the U.S.: New York’s 2008 “Safe Harbor for Exploited Children Act” bars criminal charges with the first juvenile arrest, and a Connecticut law only bars charges for those age 15 or younger.

First Offender Probation: CCH policy staffers helped to draft First Offender Probation, working three years for its enactment in 2007. It allows judges to order probation for someone charged for the first time with felony prostitution, a charge possible after just two misdemeanors. This law allows judges to offer two years probation, with rehab services, in lieu of incarceration. When probation is completed, the case is dismissed and no conviction is recorded.

Women survivors worked actively with PART to advocate for a probation option. PART has tracked the disproportionate number of felony-level convictions of prostitutes compared to the customers and pimps whose money fuels the sex trade. In Cook County in 2005, 11 men were convicted of felony-charges, compared to 381 women — one man for every 35 women convicted.

Predator Accountability Act: PART co-wrote and advocated enactment of the Predator Accountability Act, a 2006 state law modeled after laws in Minnesota, Florida, and Hawaii. It allows people harmed or exploited in the sex trade to seek civil damages for the pain and suffering they endured. “Predators” include the pimps, individuals or organizations that trafficked people into prostitution through physical and emotional coercion, sexual abuse, manipulation and deception.

Intersystem Assessment: PART organized the Intersystem Assessment of Prostitution in Chicago, a three-year study funded by the Chicago Foundation for Women. Partnering with the Mayor’s Office of Domestic Violence, PART mobilized a study of 35 government and private agencies that interact with adults who prostitute in Cook County. The study’s 29-member Steering Committee included staff from these agencies. From this, PART and MODV issued a 110-page report detailing how programs in Cook County could coordinate and be more effective. A year later, in 2008, the Cook County sheriff’s office hired two survivor advocates to reach out, within hours of arrest, to women who show interest in leaving prostitution.

Turning A Corner: With Beyondmedia Education, PART produced a 2006 documentary, Turning a Corner, that shows the difficult lives women led when they were surviving in street prostitution. To order a copy of this one-hour film, please print and mail this order form (PDF).

District 14 Pilot: After a 4-year effort, PART organized a model project that assists women leaving jail after repeated prostitution arrests in Chicago’s Shakespeare (14th) Police District. The Northwest Side district was targeted because it made more prostitution arrests than any other Chicago district in 2002. Chicago’s Low-Income Housing Trust Fund pledged $100,000 to fund scattered-site housing for 15 women in the first year (2007), and Heartland Alliance continues to run this program. The pilot offers rent-supported housing and services to women placed every six months.

Record-Sealing Act: In 2004, PART collaborated with the Developing Justice Coalition to enact the Prisoner Re-entry/Reducing Recidivism Act in Illinois. Survivors active in PART traveled to Springfield four times to advocate and speak for the measure. The 2005 law offers one-time sealing of public court records, after a four-year wait, for those who served their time for prostitution charges and some felony drug possession cases.