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Prostitution court gets approval in Indianapolis

Posted: 10:05 PM, Sep 22, 2015
Updated: 2015-09-22 22:05:45-04

For the first time ever in Indianapolis, local officials are re-thinking the strategy for dealing with the "world's oldest profession" – prostitution.

The city plans to create a prostitution court that will approach the issue as more than just a crime.

While police will still arrest the men and women who engage in prostitution, the court will soon offer defendants the opportunity to end a life on the streets.

On East 10th Street, prostitution is a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week business. People in the area say they can't escape from it all around them.

"You can't go out for a walk without someone assuming that because you're female, you're for sale," said area resident Rosie Stockdale.

For more than a year, IMPD has interviewed each woman arrested for prostitution, conducting an assessment of the personal and social choices that drove them to a lifestyle on the streets.

"These ladies need housing," said Julie Fidler, with the Department of Public Safety. "They need substance abuse help. They need mental health counseling and employment services if we are ever to get them out of the life."

The planned prostitution court will be able to offer a wide range of social services and counseling. It's a change in philosophy – one that recognizes Indianapolis has not succeeded in arresting its way out of the problem.

"People think it's just about punishment," said Sgt. John Daggy, of IMPD's vice branch. "It's actually not. Even now there are programs in place. But this will focus more on this population and get them the help they need."

Experts say more than 70 percent of women who engage in prostitution have been sexually molested as children. The people who run Kristy's House, which provides long term counseling for sexually exploited women, say prostitution courts have proven successful in other cities.

"There would be accountability," said Sarah Hurley, president of Kristy's House. "But there would be that opportunity to get help, where today this is non-existent."

Officials hope the prostitution court could open late this year.