Cook County court officials hope a new pilot program will help some longtime prostitutes get the help they need to get off the streets and stay off, says the Chicago Tribune. Women will be offered treatment and counseling as part of an intensive months-long effort, much as courts have done for drug addicts, the mentally ill, and military veterans who have committed crimes. The once-a-week courtroom opens Friday to 25 women who have a long history of arrests and are currently charged with felony prostitution.
“She has to want to change her life,” Associate Judge Rosemary Grant Higgins, who will be heading the court, said of the women. Those who opt to take part will plead guilty to the felony charge, be sentenced to 2 years of probation, and sign a contract promising to complete whatever treatment and social services experts believe are needed to end their ties to prostitution. The women will be jailed for at least 90 days while they are evaluated for drug, alcohol or other problems and given a chance to stabilize from substance abuse or emotional trauma. Depending on the extent of the problems, the women might go to inpatient facilities outside of jail for more intensive treatment or be placed in subsidized housing “to get away from the trade,” Higgins said. The women can also receive assistance with education, job counseling, health care needs, child custody, and other issues.