• 204 pages
  • 5.5 x 8.25
  • 3 tables, 2 figures
  • Price: $29.95
  • EAN: 9781439922019
  • Publication: Jul 2023
  • Price: $99.50
  • EAN: 9781439922002
  • Publication: Jul 2023
  • Price: $29.95
  • EAN: 9781439922026
  • Publication: Jul 2023

The Compassionate Court?

Support, Surveillance, and Survival in Prostitution Diversion Programs

Corey S. Shdaimah, Chrysanthi S. Leon, and Shelly A. Wiechelt

Laws subject people who perform sex work to arrest and prosecution. The Compassionate Court? assesses two prostitution diversion programs (PDPs) that offer to “rehabilitate” people arrested for street-based sex work as an alternative to incarceration. However, as the authors show, these PDPs often fail to provide sustainable alternatives to their mandated clients. Participants are subjected to constant surveillance and obligations, which creates a paradox of responsibility in conflict with the system’s logic of rescue. Moreover, as the participants often face shame and re-traumatization as a price for services, poverty and other social problems, such as structural oppression, remain in place.

The authors of The Compassionate Court? provide case studies of such programs and draw upon interviews and observations conducted over a decade to reveal how participants and professionals perceive court-affiliated PDPs, clients, and staff. Considering the motivations, vision, and goals of these programs as well as their limitations—the inequity and disempowerment of their participants—the authors also present their own changing perspectives on prostitution courts, diversion programs, and criminalization of sex work.


The Compassionate Court? is a beautifully reflexive and critical examination of prostitution diversion programs and their place in the problem-solving court movement. Despite the best efforts, these programs reinforce entrenched stigmas around race, gender, and class under the ‘cover’ of supposedly neutral crime-control goals. The authors converge around a troubling and powerful conclusion: these courts fail defendants, who are often victims themselves, withholding services to favor those who conform to norms of sexuality and femininity and reinforcing stereotypes that discipline women.”
Nicole Gonzalez Van Cleve, Associate Professor of Sociology at Brown University, and author of Crook County: Racism and Injustice in America’s Largest Criminal Court

The Compassionate Court? presents a comprehensive analysis of prostitution diversion programs (PDPs). The accomplished scholars, drawing on a decade of research on two PDPs, reveal how well-intentioned criminal system reforms fall short in addressing underlying structural issues such as poverty, trauma, and housing and job insecurity. Through too-often-ignored stories of PDP participants and program professionals, this eye-opening book challenges current approaches and advocates for alternative solutions that account for the complex realities faced by marginalized sex workers.”
Barbara G. Brents, Professor of Sociology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and coauthor of Paying for Sex in a Digital Age: US and UK Perspectives

About the Author(s)

Corey S. Shdaimah is Daniel Thursz Distinguished Professor of Social Justice at the University of Maryland School of Social Work. She is the author of Negotiating Justice: Progressive Lawyering, Low-Income Clients, and the Quest for Social Change; coauthor of Social Welfare Policy in a Changing World, among other books; and the coeditor of Challenging Perspectives on Street-Based Sex Work.

Chrysanthi S. Leon is Professor of Sociology and Criminal Justice at the University of Delaware. She is the author of Sex Fiends, Perverts and Pedophiles: Understanding Sex Crime Policy in America and coeditor of Challenging Perspectives on Street-Based Sex Work.

Shelly A. Wiechelt is Associate Professor and Associate Dean and Chair School of Social Work at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. She is the coauthor of Examining the Relationship between Trauma and Addiction.

Also of Interest

Challenging Perspectives on Street-Based Sex Work

Edited by Katie Hail-Jares, Corey S. Shdaimah, and Chrysanthi S. Leon

Courting the Community

Christine Zozula

Illness or Deviance?

Jennifer Murphy

Youth Who Trade Sex in the U.S.

Carisa R. Showden and Samantha Majic