In the world of human trafficking, there are pockets of hope across the U.S. In Cook County, Ill., Sheriff Tom Dart works relentlessly to improve not only the prosecution of human traffickers, but also the aid that law enforcement brings to victims. Dart began to realize several years ago that prostitutes were cycling through the justice system over and over, receiving no help to stay out of jail.
Knowing that the women are, as he put it, “victims of crimes of violence, who have been through unspeakable horrors and betrayals,” Dart wanted a better way to restore those trapped in prostitution and keep them out of jail.
To do this, he developed the Women’s Justice Program, which employs previously prostituted women to serve as peer counselors to those arrested for prostitution. These counselors work to convince the women to leave prostitution behind when they’re released and provide ongoing counseling and resources to help them do it. Dart knows that women will struggle to trust the police who arrested them. But they might listen to someone who has walked in their shoes and managed to escape the pain and abuse that they feel.