urban institute nonprofit social and economic policy research

Justice Policy Center

The Underground Commercial Sex Economy 

Groundbreaking research sheds new light on how much money is generated by the underground commercial sex economy in American cities.

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Underground commercial sex economy

The Justice Policy Center (JPC) conducts nonpartisan research and evaluation to improve justice and public safety policies and practices at the national, state, and local levels. We collaborate extensively with practitioners, public officials, and community groups to inform criminal justice decisionmaking in the interests of improving the safety and well-being of communities across the country.

Misconceptions about our report on the underground commercial sex economy

Our scientific study of the underground commercial sex economy was challenging, in part due to the diversity of people involved, the complexity of their experiences, and the public debates on the legality/illegality of the commercial sex trade. Since its release, the response has been large and, in some cases, heated. Researcher Meredith Dank clarifies some critical points about the study. Read More

Tearing down barriers to success for young men of color

How can interventions in policing and schools tear down barriers to success for young black and Latino men? The Obama administration’s newly launched “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative could create greater opportunities for young men of color. Read More

Google can't take you to the “Dark Web,” but is it really a lurking underworld menace?

Most “Deep Web” content is innocuous, but a subset of intentionally hidden sites has gained notoriety as havens for the drug, illegal pornography, and contract killing trades. Misinformation has run rampant in the absence of sound research. To address Dark Web crime, the first step must be to explore three unanswered questions. Read More


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Main feature photo by Flickr user Ben Oberg