Court Helps Rehabilitate Rather than Punish Prostitutes

Punishing Prostitutes in Tennessee

I’ve just learned about the WINGS (Women in Need of Gender Specific Services) court, and I’m thinking how wonderful this program could be for Memphis, Tennessee. Instead, we charge them for being too close to a church or school with a completely arbitrary distance requirement (as the crow flies) so that we can lock them up in jail for a week for each offense. They spend so much time going in and out of jail, and coming on and off drug binges, that we’re making rehabilitation nearly impossible for them.

(From the original Chicago Talks article)

Associate Judge Rosemary Higgins on Monday discussed a Cook County court program that helps convicted prostitutes into treatment instead of sending them to jail.

Higgins, 58, said WINGS (Women in Need of Gender Specific Services) court was looking for money from the county, state and federal governments to support the program. The program operates with the help of volunteers and non-profit organizations.

The court was launched in January 2011 with support from the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, the Chicago Dream Center and other organizations. It is one of only two courts in the nation that serves women convicted of felony prostitution. Also, the program in Cook County is the largest in the nation.

“This is the most interesting thing I do,” Higgins said. “It’s the most important work I’ve done as a judge.”

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