October 27, 2011 -- Enabling the Office of the State's Attorney for Baltimore City to double the capacity of its successful prostitution diversion program, the Abell Foundation has awarded us with a grant in the amount of $127,984, State's Attorney Gregg L. Bernstein announced today.

Street-level prostitution, a crime with high rates of recidivism, is associated with a host of contribution risk factors, including substance abuse, homelessness, and mental trauma. Traditional prosecution, which typically results in a minimal jail sentences or probation, has not proven successful in ending the recidivism. Baltimore averages an estimated 1,200 prostitution arrests annually, the majority of the defendants being repeat offenders. The Specialized Prostitution Diversion program (SPD) is designed to break the cycle of recidivism by providing offenders with comprehensive services, including drug treatment, mental health care, employment training, and housing.

The program, which has been recognized as a best practice, has proven to be successful. During the first three months of 2011, the program achieved a 75 percent successful completion rate among those admitted. That's dozens of individuals who are less likely to engage in prostitution and more likely to live healthier, productive lives.

From August 2009, when the program was launched, through March 2011, 1,256 people charged with prostitution have been evaluated for participation in the SPD. Of these, 545 individuals were ruled eligible, but the program could accommodate only half of them (278) because of resource limitations. With the Abell grant, the State's Attorney's Office will double the program's capacity from 40 to 80 participants at any one time.

"On behalf of the city and citizens of Baltimore, I want to thank the Abell Foundation for enabling us to grow this successful initiative. By doubling capacity, we can make an even greater impact, and for that we all benefit. The quality of life improves for people living in neighborhoods affected by prostitution. Likewise, public health improves with the reduction in sexually transmitted disease and associated drug use. And the program actually saves money for taxpayers by cutting expenses for such things as incarceration, supervised probation, and repeated prosecutions," State's Attorney Bernstein said.

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