Monday, June 26, 2017

Restorative Justice & Neglected Children

A few years ago a neighbor invited me to volunteer at something called a "Prostitute Round Up." The name, admittedly, is the worst, but the mission itself was focused on restorative justice.
The Dallas Police Department and a local church had teamed up to not just get women off the streets, but help them stay off the streets.
We arrived around 10 o'clock to an empty parking lot where three large trailers sat. I was told that the first trailer would be used as a holding cell for the women until they were able to see the judge. "Couldn't they just process them as they came in?" I naively thought.
I had no idea what I was about to see.
A little after midnight vice cops began showing up with the women in droves. They didn't look anything like I'd expected. These weren't the women portrayed on Law & Order SVU in tight mini dresses and 6-inches heels. Most of them were wearing baggy t-shirts and long blue jean shorts or sweatpants, their hair in messy ponytails, and quite a few were missing teeth. We were put to work making sandwiches because you could tell that many of them hadn't eaten in days.
This was not an empowered life choice they were making. These women were slaves to drug addiction.
One by one they were taken from the first trailer to the second one where they would see the judge for sentencing. This is where she would tell them that instead of going to jail they were going to be given a second option: treatment at a rehab facility which was being paid for by the church.
Almost all of the women chose to seek help, and that's when they started calling in the social workers.
It was like watching a relay race. The social worker would get the addresses from the officers and hurriedly rush off to collect the children who'd been left home unattended. Their ages ranged from teens all the way down to infants.
And that's when I stopped spouting the line that drugs and prostitution are "victimless crimes." They are anything but.
I never in a million years thought I would consider those children "lucky," but as The Dallas Morning News recently discovered, so many others never have a social worker show up at their door at all...