Spotlight on a Texas ESTEEM Court
By Judge Robert Anchondo, Deputy Eileen Lopez
and Case Manager/Coordinator Claudia Arreola
ue to the enormous time and effort that the Honorable Judge Anchondo and
his team have devoted to the community of El Paso, and the participants
that have gone through the El Paso County DWI Intervention and Treatment
Program, Judge Anchondo was able to collaborate with existing agencies to create
the Effective Services To Empower Educate and Mentor, or ESTEEM, program.
As one of its kind in El Paso, the ESTEEM Program seeks to transform lives through multi-agency
efforts and partnerships, by providing a program for an underserved and highly victimized population in a
multicultural and diverse region.
The Program’s mission is to provide resources to victims of prostitution by linking them to medical, mental
health, and substance abuse services. A systematic approach to safeguarding the community and providing
second chances to those in need utilizes the joinder of law enforcement, human rights, and social services.
In late 2013, El Paso County Criminal Court at Law #2 Judge Robert S. Anchondo was asked to lead an
effort that would benefit the El Paso community in dealing with the need for workers of the sex industry to
abide by the Prostitution Prevention Program/Specialty Court model envisioned in Texas Health and Safety
Code, Chapter 169 & 169A.
After long talks and a few meetings, the El Paso County Mental Health Support Services Department
(MHSS), the West Texas Community Supervision and Corrections Department (WTCSCD), and the El Paso
County Sherriff’s Office (SO) came to the table to discuss this issue. Pursuant to the statute, Criminal Court
at Law #2 created the ESTEEM program.
El Paso County Commissioners Court then established the specialty court, which, in January 2014, received
funding through a grant from the Criminal Justice Division of the Office of the Governor of Texas. Participants
who meet the program’s eligibility requirements are provided a supportive and structured environment which
allows them to build self-esteem and work towards transformation. Participants of the program are a part of
a specialty court that offers a dismissal of charges upon successful completion of the program.
During the development of the program, both enthusiasm and challenges were present. The planning
process included evaluating program modalities and finding best practices. ESTEEM consists of eight
essential components geared towards defendants arrested for prostitution who also face other issues,
including mental and medical health and environmental factors impacting their current lifestyle. Such issues
typically impede defendants’ efforts to depart from their risky lifestyles.
A team was assembled to provide a helping hand to participants. MHSS provides a counselor and a case
manager acting as a coordinator. The Sheriff’s Office provides a surveillance officer who conducts home
visits and can become a mentor to participants. Also on the team are an Assistant District Attorney (ADA)
who evaluates participation and candidacy for the program and a Public Defender (PD) who monitors and
counsels defendants’ participation in the program. At all times the clients’ rights to counsel are a priorities.