Sunday, September 24, 2006

Dallas' Letot Center combats prostitution among runaways girls

Via Cigars, Donuts and Coffee, here's a promising program in Dallas I hadn't heard of before, one other cities or urban counties ought to replicate aimed at diverting runaways, particularly child prostitutes, from the juvenile justice system ("Teens say suspect their pimp," Houston Chronicle, Sept. 21):
Child prostitutes in Dallas are taken for treatment to the Letot Center, where 73 percent of the children have not been arrested or returned to prostitution a year after treatment, [Center superintendent Sam] Quattrochi said.

Houston has no such treatment center, although Quattrochi said he has discussed the creation of one with local officials. Without a treatment center, children arrested in Houston go through the juvenile criminal system and usually end up back on the streets, he said.

In an interview outside the courtroom, Quattrochi estimated that 400 to 600 children work as prostitutes on any given night on Houston streets.

Under questioning by Assistant U.S. Attorney Bertram Isaacs, he testified that children land on the streets because both parents are in prison, both have died or the children have run away from intolerable conditions at home. ...

Pimps watch for children who are "hungry for adult attention, for excitement, for freedom," he said. They promise the children that they will be their protector, provider and their family, Quattrochi said.

Child prostitutes commonly refer to their pimps as folks or family, lover or husband, he said.

In my experience it's precisely those kids with no family support - either because their parents are in prison or dead or addicts - who wind up incarcerated long term at TYC. Mostly these kids need discipline, love (which courts and cops aren't great at providing, but pimps are good at feigning), and above all sufficient social services to survive without a traditional nuclear family.

For poor kids many such social supports must be ordered by a judge, so it's not until they get in trouble with the law that the system seeks to help them. Even then, most cities don't have a specialized facility like the Letot Center, which partners with Dallas County to provide services to runaways.

"The Letot Center is a coeducational, short-term residential facility that provides assessment, crisis intervention, emergency shelter care, foster care, non-residential counseling and referral services" for runaways, truant kids and their families. If we really care about preventing crime, Texas needs more like it, as well as more and better programs aimed at children of incarcerated parents. The best public safety outcome would be to figure out how to postively influence these girls' lives before they wind up prostituting themselves on the streets.

3 comments:

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I'm not surprised that female teenagers begin the business of selling their bodies at a young age and run away from their homes.

Anonymous said...

get more information about this issue... the kids are not CHOOSING this, they are forced into it... the words children and prostitution do NOT go together... any child being used or sold for sex is being RAPED and those who do this should be prosecuted under the laws of RAPE and ASSAULT on a minor... please learn more about this very serious situation for children in this country...