These inter-related reports contain the initial findings of a national mapping and
The reports suggest that PDPs arise from mixed narratives of rescue and harm-reduction, in which all sex sector activities become conflated with a reductive and inaccurate “trafficking” narrative. Moreover, the programs are generally incoherent in their purpose and claims, opaque in their data collection, and under-resourced and insufficiently integrated (and thus relatively unaccountable) with very mixed outcomes: some affected populations appreciate the less punitive approach and offers of support, while others feel there is no real commitment to their rights or health and that the services offered do not match their actual desires and structural needs. While PDPs claim to provide alternatives to traditional criminal justice processes by moving defendants into ostensibly rehabilitative social services, the reports suggest that the programs are unable to fulfill their promises and are instead expanding the coercive reach of penal institutions by enabling them to act as gatekeepers of social services.
While the reports make clear that genuine movement forward requires the complete decriminalization of sex work and reinvestment of resources in systems led by affected communities, they also propose incremental steps that can be taken to mitigate immediate harms to sex workers caught in PDPs and cycles of criminalization. We hope these reports stimulate greater public discussion and accountability as well as advocacy at local, state, and national levels by sex worker advocacy organizations, health and harm reduction coalitions, and allies who seek to ensure that diversion processes overall serve justice and health more consistently.
These reports were developed through clinic projects, and student summer internships at the SWP and in Atlanta to continue our collaboration with local partners and related research efforts. This work is an initiative of the Gruber Project for Global Justice and Women’s Rights, and the research for the reports and the collaboration between GHJP and SWP was supported by a generous grant from the Levi Strauss Foundation.