Authorities in Dallas are grappling with prostitution by taking some uncommon measures. Rather than sending prostitutes directly to jail, officers are giving them a unique opportunity — to turn their lives around, get off of streets and begin a process of life-altering transformation.
To combat the illegal activity, which has apparently become quite pervasive, the Dallas Police Department launched the Prostitution Diversion Initiative (PDI) five years ago, a combined effort of police, social services and other local groups.
Photo Credit: Dallas Police Department
Officers found themselves frustrated over the prospect of arresting the same women repeatedly, CBN News reports. So, they launched a solution — one that has been wildly successful in helping people escape cycles of criminal activity.
“It allows us to move the prostitutes from the wheel of going around in the criminal justice system on a regular basis to moving into a recovery mode,” explains Dallas Police Lt. Mike Coleman said. ”(We) realized we were not going to arrest our way out of this.”
How does it work, you ask? Rather than arresting women and holding them like criminals, authorities take a different, albiet, more controversial approach: They treat them like victims. On the surface, some may accuse police of being too soft on crime, but Coleman explains that this particular program allows for individuals engaging in prostitution to gain access to much-needed services that can help to stop criminal patterns.
“When you treat them as a victim, that’s what allows them to get the services that they need for whatever is ailing them, be it drug addiction, be it whatever counseling needs they have, for whatever it is that’s causing them to be engaged in this lifestyle,” he explained.
CBN News explains how the program works:
One night a month police set up a mobile command center near a local truck stop where hookers find their clients. Officers make arrests for prostitution and other crimes.
The women are given a choice: jail or a chance at a new life via the PDI 45-day program.
Only those who are charged with a misdemeanor can participate in the program. If they accept the offer, the services range from job counseling, to mental health services to drug and alcohol rehabilitation.
Since PDI’s launch, authorities have detained more than 700 prostitutes. While nearly half of them have opted to join the program, not all have completed it. Still, the results are encouraging. The Dallas Police Department’s web site further explains the details involved:
Once arrested, the detainee is taken to a remote bookin; where the field operations are being held. She is searched and relieved of any contraband, then taken for a medical screening. The Dallas County Heath and Human Services test for any sexually transmitted diseases and HIV right on-site in their mobile laboratory.
After testing they are taken before a on-site Judge. The Judge determines if she is to be transported to the Dallas County Jail or enrolled in one of the treatment centers available on-site, all according to her criminal history and other factors; The women have the opportunity to accept this offer or go to jail. PDI is a 100% volunteer based program.
By being pro-active, giving these women the necessary tools to be productive citizens not only benefits the women and the surrounding communities; it allows Law Enforcement to take less of a re-active approach to prostitution.
After competition of the program, women are encouraged to launch new and improved lives. Volunteers help them locate homes, connect with family members and gain employment, among other key services.
Karen Green’s story exposes just one of the many successes. Green, a former prostitute and drug addict, found God in the process of cleaning up her life. Now, she‘s volunteering once per month and praying that other women can find the same peace she’s been given.
“When I come out here, I just walk the grounds and I claim it for Jesus and every woman that comes through the PDI,” she said. ”I pray over her and ask the Lord to give her just the strength to say yes, that she wants help,” she said.