Some Milwaukee women have joined something called the Sisters Program because they were arrested for prostitution and given a choice: a ticket and a fine, or a minimum of six months of participating at Sisters, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. The program, housed in a Lutheran church, is a collaborative effort among the Benedict Center — an interfaith, nonprofit agency that focuses on criminal justice reforms — the Milwaukee County district attorney’s office and the Milwaukee Police Department District 3. “I think it’s an innovative solution to what has, frankly, been an old problem and one in which traditional methods of arrest and incarceration are really just a rotating door,” said Jeanne Geraci, the Benedict Center’s executive director. “It’s frustrating for the police and the residents, and frankly it was not helping the women get to any better place.”
Sisters got a grant with a new partner, the Medical College of Wisconsin, and expanded last year. The expansion allowed for the hiring of two part-time outreach workers, themselves graduates of Benedict Center programming, who visit the streets to engage women involved in street sex work. They try to build trusting relationships and offer the women bagged lunches, hygiene products and referrals to Sisters and other resources. Researchers from the Medical College are analyzing data about the women and the program, trying to measure progress and build a best-practices model.