Saturday, January 19, 2019
Continental Parlors 1-3, Ballroom Level (Hilton San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Background: Court diversion programs offer alternative treatment approaches to the criminal justice process in lieu of a traditional process resulting in punitive sanctions for offenders. Court diversion programs have recently been developed in some states for women who have been arrested for prostitution and prostitution-related crimes. Few studies have evaluated program structures and outcomes for these court programs that are specific to prostitution. This scoping review of the literature related to prostitution court diversion programs aims to: (a) examine the various programmatic components adopted by each program and (b) identify the impact of program completion on participants. Methods: Studies were identified by using electronic databases and by conducting a hand search. Key search words were entered into three databases: Academic OneFile, Academic Search Complete, and Worldcat. Search terms included: (prostitut* OR sex traffick* OR human traffick*) AND (special* docket* OR special* court* OR diversion program* OR diversion court* OR problem-solving court* OR deflection program* OR deflection court*). Titles, abstracts, and full articles were screened in that order for inclusion and exclusion criteria. Inclusion criteria included: (a) studies related to a diversion or specialty court program for prostitution-related crimes, (b) English language articles, and (c) articles published in peer-reviewed journals or dissertations. Articles were excluded if they (a) focused on diversion programs related only to those who were charged with buying sex. Because of the scarcity of scholarship on this topic, articles were not limited by publication date. Results: The initial search yielded 85 articles, and 76 of the articles were excluded. Nine articles published between 2005 and 2017 were included in the review. Five of the studies used qualitative methods, three used quantitative methods, and one used mixed methods. The quantitative studies examined multiple dependent variables, including: (a) the impact of prostitution diversion programs on recidivism, (b) outcomes related to improved living conditions, and (c) risk factors for re-arrest. One study also examined the outcome of an alternate, non-adversarial method of enrolling participants into the diversion program. Although programs varied in structure, services, and length of time, all studies indicated positive outcomes for participants. Analysis of the qualitative studies yielded three primary themes including: (a) impact on program participants, (b) helpfulness of various program components, and (b) recommendations for maximizing outcomes. Prostitution diversion programs provided much-needed services to participants, including the material and psychological support that they are required to successfully exit prostitution and improve their quality of life. Many participants reported positive experiences with the programs and a perception that the programs were life-saving and effective. Both the empathetic and supportive approach employed through the judicial process, and the extensive services provided through the programs were perceived as being helpful. Conclusions/Implications: Although few studies have explored the evidence related to prostitution court diversion programs, the positive outcomes suggest that prostitution diversion programs are a promising practice that help to reduce recidivism and improve the quality of life for program participants. Results from this scoping review help to illuminate future directions for criminal justice practice, policy, and research.