In 2006, a group of residents in Baltimore’s Curtis Bay neighborhood had a problem: prostitutes stood on street corners waiting for Johns; they’d be picked up for prostitution by the police, only to return to the same streets. A task force was formed. What grew out of it was a program rooted in an approach called “problem-solving justice”. Instead of moving those facing prostitution charges through the criminal justice system, it gives them access to services that might keep them out of it and off the streets. It's called the Specialized Pre-Trial Diversion program. It began in 2009, within the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office, and can now serve about 80 people at any given time.
Corey Shdaimah, an Associate Professor at the University of Maryland School of Social Work, recently co-authored a scholarly article on what she learned during 120 hours of interviews with people who have been through the program. Sheilah spoke with her, and with Sue Diehl, a social worker who has been part of the pre-trial diversion program since its beginning.