Dozens of prostitutes with outstanding warrants have been picked up off Detroit’s streets and given a choice: Go to jail or enter Fresh Start, a 15- to 24-month program designed to end the drug use, the self-abuse, and the hooking, says the Detroit Free Press. While many of the women have been in and out of court and short-term rehabilitation centers, they’re surprised to learn that this program has teeth. If they run from it, sheriff’s deputies will comb the streets for them, flashing their pictures until they’re found, rearrested, and put back in the program — most of them kicking and screaming.
In addition to the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office and jail system, the unique collaboration that began in 2004 involves the Detroit Health and Law departments, the city’s Bureau of Substance Abuse, and a drug court. The program attempts to break the usual cycle for prostitutes: Slapped with misdemeanor tickets, they’re tossed back on the streets after 30- to 90-day jail stints. Officials say most return to their hangouts, turn again to drugs — and again sell themselves to pay for their habits. Fresh Start doesn’t aim to punish the women but to zero in on what led them to a life on the streets and help them halt the cycle. The program is being watched by law enforcement around the nation. So far, 18 women have made it all the way through, and none has relapsed. This summer, the court involved was ranked second best in the nation by the National Association of Drug Courts.