Expertise in multi-door criminal justice enables new forms of intervention within existing criminal justice systems. Expertise provides criminal justice personnel with the rationale and means to use their authority in order to carry out their existing roles for the purpose of doing (what they see as) good. In the first section, we outline theoretical frameworks derived from Gil Eyal’s sociology of expertise and Thomas Haskell’s evolution of moral sensibility. We use professional stakeholder interview data (N = 45) from our studies of three emerging and existing prostitution diversion programs as a case study to illustrate how criminal justice actors use what we define as primary, secondary, and tertiary expertise in multi-agency working groups.

Actors make use of the tools at their disposal—in this case, the concept of trauma—to further personal and professional goals. As our case study demonstrates, professionals in specialized diversion programs recognize the inadequacy of criminal justice systems and believe that women who sell sex do so as a response to past harms and a lack of social, emotional, and material resources to cope with their trauma. Trauma shapes the kinds of interventions and expertise that are marshalled in response. Specialized programs create seepage that may reduce solely punitive responses and pave the way for better services. However empathetic, they do nothing to address the societal forces that are the root causes of harm and resultant trauma. This may have more to do with imagined capacities than with the objectively best approaches.

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