Future in jeopardy: Court program to help end prostitution in Travis County

Your tax dollars - going to a program that's supposed to help end prostitution in Austin - but it's falling short of expectations.

AUSTIN, Texas -- In a city that's growing by the minute, change is inevitable. But growth brings a new set of worries for Travis County Officials -- how to handle prostitution.

KVUE spoke with Judge Mike Denton on Thursday. Denton is one of the judges over what is called The Phoenix Court. It's a program that helps dismiss charges of those in prostitution. It also gives them resources to maintain a better life.

Former Gov. Rick Perry signed legislation in 2013 requiring counties with populations over 200,000 to come up with a plan for a prostitution diversion court.

"If we don't deal with the underlying needs these people have, they're just going to keep getting arrested and jailed over and over and over again," Denton said.

Denton says the program is made up of mostly women in their 20's and it takes a year to complete. Phoenix Court is costing taxpayers close to $115,000 a year.

However, it's one of the programs that lost funding in February when Gov. Greg Abbott cut $1.5 million in state grants in response to SB 4.

Travis County Commissioner Gerald Daugherty is concerned about the funding cuts.

"For me, it's going to be very difficult for me to continue to fund something when that's not what I felt like we were signing up for," Daugherty said.

Daugherty believes pimps must be the target first.

"I would take a picture of you get your name in big letters as I can and I would scroll it on I-35 about 'here are the folks that we picked up for prostitution,'" Daugherty said.

On top of this, Daugherty wants to see the long-term effects of the program.

Denton said several people will be graduating from the program soon.

Commissioners are expected to bring up the court program again at their next meeting.

For more information on Phoenix Court, click here

© 2017 KVUE-TV


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