Decriminalizing Sex Work Is Part of Reducing Police Brutality

Anti-prostitution laws are often used to target poor people of color. This often leads to arrest, incarceration, and trauma, rather than assistance or support.

NEW YORK, NY – June 19 –  The conflation of sex work and trafficking has led to a dramatic increase in funding for law-enforcement departments. As a result, law-enforcement officers raid and arrest adult consensual sex workers and their clients, often in the name of rescuing and saving sex-trafficking victims. These policies and priorities have done little to help victims of trafficking or violence. Decriminalizing sex work is one way to redirect resources from law enforcement to the social services that communities want.

“Instead of help, these people are getting put in jail”, explains Ceyenne Doroshow, founder and executive director of GLITS (Gays and Lesbians Living in a Transgender Society) and community engagement consultant for Decriminalize Sex Work. “In the arrest, you are taking away the autonomy of a Black, trans sex worker.” Ceyenne continues, “You are taking away their equity, their mental stability. You are breaking what was already broken because of society and policing. Recidivism is because of the trauma they face in prison and in arrest. And if I had my way, I would go after the police union as they keep excusing bad behavior.“

Laws such as loitering for the purpose of engaging in a prostitution offense give police the pretext to engage and arrest marginalized women. For example, in New York City in 2018, there were 139 people arrested for loitering for the purposes of prostitution, 95% of them persons of color, and a disproportionate amount of them transwomen. That same year more than 500 people were arrested for prostitution in NYC, the overwhelming majority of whom are women and transwomen of color.

Too often, police abuse their power and sexually assault their targets, like the case of West Sacramento, California police officer Sergio Alvarez, who raped several sex workers. In 2018, an undercover Columbus, Ohio police officer shot and killed 23-year-old sex worker Donna Dalton (a.k.a. Donna Castleberry) in an unmarked police car. In 2017, Yang Song leaped to her death to avoid arrest by NYC vice raiding the massage parlor where she worked.

Tens of thousands of people are arrested annually for prostitution and related crimes. The majority of those arrested are adults who engage in consensual, victimless activities. Where sex work is decriminalized, law enforcement is able to focus resources on prosecuting human trafficking and other violent crimes.

“Those who are arrested for selling sex face police abuse or harassment, potential incarceration, fines, lost wages, and significant collateral consequences. They often end up with permanent records that hinder future opportunities for employment, housing, immigration status, and other necessities,” says DSW Legal Director Melissa Broudo. “Criminalizing sex work makes it dangerous. Police, prosecutors and jails don’t improve the lives of people who are arrested for trying to earn a living.”

DSW Communications Director Kaytlin Bailey says, “The police have never served the community of sex workers. Now that the nation is finally taking police brutality and institutional racism seriously, it’s time to redirect funds wasted on policing adult sex workers to helping people who struggle. It’s time to stop the arrests.”

Decriminalize Sex Work

Decriminalize Sex Work is a national organization pursuing a state-by-state strategy to end the prohibition of consensual, adult prostitution in the United States. We work with local organizations, advocates, and lobbyists to build community support and convince legislators to stop prostitution-related arrests. Evidence shows that decriminalizing sex work will help end human trafficking, improve public health, and promote community safety.


Kaytlin Bailey
Communications Director
512-942-6078 Ext 1
kaytlin@dsworg.org

Addendum:
Why Decriminalizing Sex Work Is Good Criminal Justice Policy

Queens Prosecutor Is Wrong About Human Trafficking and Arresting Johns

Decriminalize Sex Work
www.DecriminalizeSex.Work
Contact: Kaytlin Bailey, Communications Director
kaytlin@dswork.org (m) 919-649-7725

NEW YORK, NEW YORK
May 25, 2020

Queens Prosecutor Is Wrong About Human Trafficking and Arresting Johns

On Monday, May 18, Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz announced the creation of the Human Trafficking Bureau to “prosecute sex and labor traffickers” and purchasers of sexual services. Criminalizing clients reflects a willful refusal to distinguish between adult consensual sex work and trafficking. Human rights organizations, the World Health Organization, the United Nations, and a growing number of policy experts agree that a more effective policy would be to fully decriminalize adult prostitution and focus law-enforcement efforts on instances of criminal labor trafficking — both in and out of the sex industry.

“As someone who has spent my legal career working with survivors of trafficking and people in the sex industry, I’m continually frustrated that prosecutors like Katz conflate human trafficking and adult consensual sex work,” says Melissa Sontag Broudo, legal director at Decriminalize Sex Work, a national advocacy organization.

Prosecutors can only effectively combat real trafficking when they acknowledge that the majority of sex workers and their clients are adults engaging in negotiated, voluntary exchange. Studies confirm that criminalizing clients increases violence against sex workers. For example, Northern Ireland criminalized clients in 2015, and a 2019 review by its own Department of Justice revealed sex workers felt less safe than before the law passed because of a surge of antisocial behavior directed at them.

Katz inherited a long legacy in Queens related to this issue. In 2008, the Queens Criminal Court pioneered the first-ever “Human Trafficking Intervention Court” (HTIC) to provide services to individuals in the sex industry. While there was no dedicated trafficking unit within the DA’s office, there were numerous dedicated prosecutors who worked on this issue.

“I have practiced in the HTIC, and while the feeling is quite supportive and compassionate, the underlying problem is that my clients should not have been forced into the criminal justice system to get social services. The entire foundational principle of these courts further disempowers victims. Why are we arresting sex workers or victims of human trafficking? The conflation of prostitution and trafficking predates these courts, but the HTICs effectively institutionalized it. Now Katz is continuing to pursue rhetoric and policies that will inevitably hurt those they claim to help,” says Sontag Broudo.

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Decriminalize, For Public Health

Decriminalize Sex Work
www.DecriminalizeSex.Work
Contact: Kaytlin Bailey, Communications Director
kaytlin@dswork.org (m) 919-649-7725

NEW YORK, NEW YORK
May 15, 2020

Decriminalize, For Public Health

Yesterday, UNAIDS, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the World Health Organization and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime called on global leaders “to make detention a last resort, to close drug rehabilitation detention centers and to decriminalize sex work, same-sex sexual relations, and drug use.

Decriminalize Sex Work, a national advocacy organization, is calling on states and cities to follow the UN’s recommendations and stop policing prostitution-related crimes immediately, as a matter of public health.

Global health experts are urging us to release as many people as possible from incarceration to reduce our collective susceptibility to this pandemic. High-density prisons spread disease amongst inmates, visitors, and employees. Guards and other essential staff bring the virus back home to their families, who then spread it around the community. You don’t need to know a single incarcerated person to want to reduce prison and jail density for your own safety. A simple way to start is by decriminalizing consensual adult sexual activities.

This is a matter of public health and safety. Melissa Broudo, policy director for Decriminalize Sex Work, says “Arresting adults for negotiated, consensual sex has always been a human rights violation for those arrested, but this global pandemic has really shown us how these arrests put all of us at risk.”

Kaytlin Bailey, communications director for Decriminalize Sex Work says “We cannot arrest our way out of this problem. Decriminalizing prostitution improves the health and safety of communities.”

The urgent call for action has never been clearer. Release nonviolent offenders from prison and stop arresting people for adult consensual prostitution.

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Super Tuesday Is International Sex Worker Rights Day

Decriminalize Sex Work
www.DecriminalizeSex.Work
Contact: Kaytlin Bailey, Communications Director
kaytlin@dswork.org (m) 919-649-7725

NEW YORK, NEW YORK
February 27, 2020

Super Tuesday Is International Sex Worker Rights Day

Super Tuesday, March 3, is also International Sex Worker Rights Day.

International Sex Worker Rights Day began in 2001, when over 25,000 sex workers gathered in India for a festival organised by Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee, a Calcutta-based sex worker rights group that represents more than 65,000 male, female, and transgender sex workers. Durbar is a Bengali word that means unstoppable.

Sex workers and their allies across the world celebrate March 3 as International Sex Worker Rights Day, an annual and international event. On Super Tuesday, sex workers and their allies will be among the primary voters in Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, and Virginia. The majority of voters across the political spectrum support sex worker rights; we deserve a candidate who does too.

Decriminalize Sex Work (DSW) has updated its presidential candidate report card ahead of this historic day. Kaytlin Bailey, director of communications for DSW, explains, “Sex workers vote.”

To see the report card for the entire field of Democratic presidential candidates, please visit https://decriminalizesex.work/2020-presidential-campaign.

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Sex Worker Advocates Grade Democratic Candidates on Prostitution Policy Positions

Decriminalize Sex Work
www.DecriminalizeSex.Work
Contact J. Leigh Brantly, Research & Project Manager
jleigh@dswork.org

NEW YORK, NEW YORK
February 6, 2020

Sex Worker Advocates Grade Democratic Candidates on Prostitution Policy Positions

Decriminalize Sex Work (DSW), the largest organization in the country focused solely on decriminalizing sex work, released its presidential candidate “report card” on Thursday, February 6, 2020. The organization is encouraging primary voters to use the issue as a litmus test for candidates who claim they want to reduce prison populations, support human rights, and promote health and safety within our communities.

Kaytlin Bailey, director of communications for DSW, explains, “Every candidate claims to want to reduce violence and exploitation in the sex industry. We graded the candidates based on whether or not the policies they support will help us achieve those goals. Voters should know how candidates think about policing the oldest profession.”

All three frontrunners, Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, and Elizabeth Warren, scored a “C” from the sex worker rights group. Michael Bloomberg received the only outright “F” because of his degrading public remarks and punitive policies. Data from the New York Division of Justice Services (DCJS) showed that arrest rates for prostitution were 30% higher during Bloomberg’s tenure as mayor. Demographic data reveals that the spike in arrest rates almost exclusively targeted black Americans.

Melissa Broudo, general council for DSW, spoke to campaigns while preparing this report. “We were thrilled that many candidates were open to this conversation. In my nearly 20 years advocating for decriminalization, this is the first time this issue is part of the national conversation.”

Data for Progress released a poll on January 30, 2020, showing that an “outright majority of all voters support decriminalizing sex work.”

To see the report card for the entire field of Democratic presidential candidates, please visit https://decriminalizesex.work/issues-advocacy/2020-presidential-campaign.

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Sex Workers Win Major Decision in Federal Court

Decriminalize Sex Work
www.DecriminalizeSex.Work
Contact Kaytlin Bailey, Director of Communications
kaytlin@dswork.org

NEW YORK, NEW YORK
January 27, 2020

Sex Workers Win Major Decision in Federal Court

Sex workers and their allies have won an important victory in their ongoing constitutional challenge to FOSTA/SESTA, a federal law that is having a destructive impact on the health and safety of sex workers and their communities.

“This is the most important case pending in federal court,” said Kaytlin Bailey, communications director for DSW. “Sex workers are feeling the brunt of this law now, but so are harm reduction advocates, massage therapists, and human rights organizations.”

At issue is the FOSTA/SESTA law, enacted in 2018, which imposes severe criminal penalties for the operators of web sites that allow discussions of prostitution, which caused many dating web sites to close.  As a result, sex workers who had been using websites to schedule and screen their clients have since resorted to more dangerous tactics, such as soliciting on the street or relying on third parties such as pimps.

“Allowing sex workers to schedule and screen their clients online improves the health and safety of our communities,” said Melissa Broudo, DSW’s staff attorney who coordinated DSW’s amicus brief supporting the plaintiffs.

Studies show that when Craigslist Erotic Services allowed adults to negotiate consensual sex with each other, the female homicide rate dropped by 17%. When sex work was decriminalized in Rhode Island from 2003 to 2009, reported rapes dropped by 30% and gonorrhea by 40%.

“The evidence couldn’t be more clear,” said Broudo. “Allowing adult consensual sex workers and their clients to connect online makes the work safer.”

On Friday, January 24, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that the plaintiffs’ case can proceed to trial, where a federal judge will decide whether FOSTA/SESTA interferes with the constitutional rights of website operators and their users.

“Sex workers have been waiting for our day in court for over 100 years,” said Bailey.

Eight Women Charged With Prostitution After “Rescue Operation”

Decriminalize Sex Work
www.DecriminalizeSex.Work

Contact Kaytlin Bailey, Director of Communications
kaytlin@dswork.org

NEW YORK, NY
March 7, 2019

Eight Women Charged With Prostitution After “Rescue Operation”

Only one woman arrested during the much acclaimed “rescue operation” in South Florida last week is willing to cooperate with police. So instead of being rescued, eight women are now being charged with prostitution and related crimes.

The police have spent the last week bragging about their role in breaking up a “multi billion dollar international sex trafficking ring.” They had a splashy press conference and they named and shamed a lot of men who paid for hand jobs over the course of their investigation.

After months of surveillance, there is no evidence of trafficking and no one is being charged with those crimes. Instead, eight women were handcuffed and humiliated; their assets have been seized; and they have all been charged with prostitution. Decriminalize Sex Work Director of Communications Kaytlin Bailey says, “The police have the audacity to call these bullying tactics a rescue operation.”

Multiple agencies in South Florida have spent the better part of a year investigating three massage parlors and determined that on average, once every three days a licensed, legally working masseur helps her client achieve ejaculation. Tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars went toward this discovery.

There were no complaints from the spa’s neighbors or passersby. The only complaint seemed to be that there weren’t enough hand jobs happening on the premises. More than half of the Yelp reviews expressed disappointment that they had wanted sexual contact but did not receive it.  Some clients did receive sexual contact. And some of that contact was with undercover police officers who felt it necessary to have their balls touched before arresting these “sex slaves.”

On November 26, 2017, the NYPD tried to “rescue” Yang Song in Flushing, Queens. She threw herself out of a third story window and fell to her death. She landed at the foot of the undercover police officer who moments before was trying to entrap her. Bailey continues, “These officers are not heroes, they’re bullies. They literally kill the women they claim to be rescuing.”

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