Policing and Enforcement of Prostitution Laws in Chicago: a report

After 18 months of research and observations, CAASE was able to evaluate how systems in Chicago respond to commercial sexual exploitation from police intervention through criminal case disposition. This report provides recommendations for improvements and advocates for practices and policies that more effectively recognize and respond to the vulnerability and victimization of people selling sex in Chicago.

View the report as a PDF

The report’s key findings are:

  • CPD continues to prioritize the enforcement of prostitution laws against those selling sex rather than those buying sex or trafficking despite state law changes that created financial incentives for local law enforcement to target buyers and traffickers.
  • People in the sex trade, most commonly Black women in their mid 20s to 40s, frequently described negative interactions with police, often dealing with derogatory comments and attitudes, and sexual misconduct by officers. 
  • Participants within the Chicago Prostitution and Trafficking Intervention Court described the diversion program as a positive experience because it is less adversarial in nature compared to a typical courtroom, and it offers services.

This publication is one of the many steps CAASE has taken and will continue to take to advocate for all survivors of commercial sexual exploitation, and their dignity and rights. It comes at a moment that feels particularly hopeful because Chicago is at a crossroads for change. We have a new mayor, Lori Lightfoot, who is prioritizing good government practices and investing in marginalized neighborhoods to improve the well-being of the city’s most impoverished and oppressed residents. We have a state’s attorney, Kim Foxx, who is prioritizing criminal justice reform, and undoing inequities like racism and poverty perpetuated in the criminal justice system. We will soon have a new Chicago police superintendent tasked with leading a department undergoing mandatory reforms after numerous incidents of civil rights violations and misconduct. Reforming how our community responds to people selling sex, and how we treat them, must be included within this larger commitment from our leaders to improve the lives of the most vulnerable people in our community.

We hope you will join us in pressing our city to address the inequality and harm inherent in the sex trade. Be sure to follow @theCAASE on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to stay up to date on advocacy opportunities.