Special felony court offers help, hope for prostitutes

Objective is to end 'revolving door syndrome'

SAN ANTONIO – A specialty court in Bexar County has been designated to deal exclusively with women facing prostitution charges.

The Esperanza Court offers what the word esperanza means — hope.

“Nobody wakes up and wants to be a prostitute at night,” said District Judge Lorina Rummel, who oversees the court.

The objective is to get prostitutes off the streets, get them help and get them back into society as productive people. The court wants to end what is called "the revolving door syndrome," when defendants are arrested, jailed, tried and often soon back on the streets reoffending.

“It’s a tall order,” Rummel said. “It takes intensive therapy and intense treatment. We’re focusing on about a 2 1/2-year probation with intervention every single day.”

The court implemented a four-phase program, which is part of the women’s probation. That includes mental and physical health treatment and education.

“The majority of our women are victims themselves,” Rummel said. “Some were sex trafficking victims, victims of sexual assault and victims of physical abuse.” Rummel said these are all often contributing factors in the women’s criminal history.

The program is a major commitment from the court that dictates the same from its participants.

“It is a huge commitment for these women to try to take control of their lives and try to change their lives,” Rummel explained.

The program will graduate its first group of participants in December.

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