New Chicago Prostitution and Trafficking Intervention Court disclosed by Cook County
Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, along with her partners in the criminal justice system and social justice community, finally announced that a “new diversion program would focus on treatment and services over-incarceration.” The diversion program is said to have been designed to transform the Cook County’s litigation process of prostitution cases. Trauma-based services and human trafficking-oriented activities are to be provided for the individuals charged with the prosecution.
The goal of the State’s Attorney’s Office in creating the Chicago Prostitution and Trafficking Intervention Court (CPTIC) is to design a specific prosecution process that specializes on providing competent assistance to individuals who previously engaged in a pattern of prostitution and, most notably, those that were victims of sex trafficking. Consequently, the CPTIC is a distinctive measure to discontinue the traditional prosecution and incarceration of prostitution cases and develop treatment procedures and services.
“We know that many women involved in prostitution are victims of human traffickers or they face issues such as chronic homelessness, mental health issues or addiction and they engage in prostitution for basic necessities such as food and shelter,” said State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez in one of her statements regarding the new court. “We strongly believe that this unique and coordinated initiative will bring positive results for the participants and their families, public safety, and the criminal justice system as a whole,” she further claims.
The Chicago Prostitution and Trafficking Intervention Court was initiated by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, as lead by the State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez. The new court was made in collaboration with the Chief Cook County Circuit Judge Timothy C. Evans, Cook County Public Defender Amy P. Campanelli, and other social service providers in the Chicago Area. Moreover, the program for the new court was developed and modeled from the Substance Treatment and Research Service (STARS) Program – an initiative of the Columbia University Medical Center and the New York State Psychiatric Institute that offers free and confidential treatments for those that need assistance with drug abuse, and other co-occurring psychiatric disorders. With the help of technical support from the Center of Court Innovation in New York, the CPTI has successfully been developed.
Following the End Demand Illinois campaign that has successfully passed the bill of eliminating prostitution charges throughout the state and under the Illinois Law, the CPTI becomes the first program of its kind, which prosecutes prostitution and sex trafficking victims misdemeanor charges. This new court program’s objective is to reduce substance abuse and addiction among women who were victims of sex trafficking and who previously engaged in prostitution. Moreover, the new court program also aims to combat recidivism and address jail crowding. Ultimately, the CPTI shall help the victims facing misdemeanor prostitution charges with resources and services to assist them in moving forward, away from the life of prostitution.
“Although they come to court as defendants, persons in the sex trade are the real victims. They require our compassion and help, which is why the court collaborated with our fellow stakeholders. We believe that with access to appropriate services and treatment and the encouragement of the court system, clients in our new court will attain the courage and resolve to transition out from ‘the life,’ as it is called, to a new and better life,” said Chief Cook County Circuit Judge Timothy C. Evans, who facilitated the implementation of the Chicago Prostitution and Trafficking Intervention Court.
The CPTI is a specialized deferred prosecution, which includes four graded levels of programming. These programs will be offered to the victims based on their current needs and the criminal records they hold. Additionally, most of the defendants are to be submitted “deferred prosecution,” which allows them to receive treatments and services and have their criminal charges dismissed, if and only if the program requirements they have been assigned to are met. The Chicago Prostitution and Trafficking Intervention Court program is located at the Cook County Domestic Violence Courthouse at 555 W. Harrison.
After the case has been processed immediately, the defendant will be offered assistance and service programs and admission into a need-based treatment that is to be modeled to their record and needs. The components of the need-based treatments include HIV testing and referrals to specific treatment if necessary, and an individual case needs assessment, counseling, support, and case management. Moreover, they will receive group counseling and aftercare. On the one hand, these programs and assessments are to be managed by the service providers belonging to the Domestic Violence Court. The primary social services for the CPTI, on the other hand, will be led and aligned to the “Footprints” Program by the Christian Community Health Center, establishing community involvement and assistance for the new court. Besides, supplementary aid and services are to be provided by the Salvation Army STOP-IT programs and Thresholds, and the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.
With this new court, charges on the defendants may be dismissed upon the completion of the requirements given by the program; however, defendants who refuse the initial intervention or were unsuccessful with the requirements will be given the option to either enroll in a more intensive treatment or plead guilty and be incarcerated. The advantage of the Chicago Prostitution and Trafficking Intervention Court program is giving hands-on treatment to the offenders. Additionally, they will be given access to resources that will help them build themselves up, without the need to return to sex trafficking and prostitution. This includes providing services and resources that will help them acquire health insurance, substance abuse treatment, education options, and housing availability.
The Public Defender Amy P. Campanelli commends the CPTI and says, “this new intervention court will help our clients start a new life. It is a step in the right direction because it shifts the conversation and recognizes that most women are victims, not criminals. It will remove them from the cycle of drugs, abuse, and exploitation, and treat them as human beings, not case numbers to be processed as offenders.” Moreover, Public Defender Campanelli shows her support and commendation to the Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez and Chief Cook County Circuit Judge Timothy Evans for their visionary leadership and excellent collaboration with the making of the Chicago Prostitution and Trafficking Court program.