In February of 2009, staff of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless began a dialogue with the Honorable Paul P. Biebel, Presiding Judge of Cook County Criminal Courts, regarding the possibility of a new problem-solving court specializing in prostitution offenses. For our own edification, we searched for other court models around the country with this same focus. We found several; however, there was no centralized source of information. There was also a lack of shared information among those responsible for coordinating these court projects. In fact, few of these court teams were aware of the other courts in operation. We found more and more court models randomly via keyword searches on the Internet or word of mouth. Those that we contacted regarding their court models were eager and enthusiastic about their models, willing to openly share any information requested, and excited about the prospect of new models and connecting with other existing courts and their associated programs.
As we moved further into developing and preparing for the WINGS Project, the newly formed felony prostitution court in Cook County, Illinois, we felt that it would be highly beneficial to begin sharing the knowledge, best practices, and contact information among the courts throughout the country. We wanted to create a tool that facilitated communication and learning between all of the court teams. The information regarding these courts was invaluable in the creation of the WINGS Project, and we hope it can be as useful for other specialty courts for prostitution offenses around the country.
The authors of this report have not physically observed any of the court or diversion projects described in this report other than the WINGS Project/Feathers and the Maywood court calls. The information presented about each project is based on countless hours of phone interviews and email communication, as well as any online articles or reports; therefore, the information presented is not completely neutral, and any subjective information or views expressed within those sections do not necessarily reflect the views of the authors.
The court and diversion projects in this report are by no means meant to be an exhaustive list, but rather only what we have been able to find through extensive research to date. This report is, and may always be, a work in progress. Our hope is that this report will also help us gain awareness of other projects and even spur other communities to develop similar projects. The sharing of this tool should lead to even greater sharing, ever-improving models, and a much more comprehensive base of knowledge on the subject of effective criminal justice-based models that divert individuals with prostitution offenses away from prison and into desperately needed community-based services.