• April 19, 2024

Manhattan District Attorney Says His Office Will Stop Prosecuting Prostitution : NPR

In February 2019, protesters gathered in New York City to campaign for the decriminalization of sex trafficking in the city and state. Manhattan prosecutors announced more than two years later that they would end the prosecution of prostitution and move the dismissal of hundreds of related cases dating back decades. Erik McGregor / LightRocket via Getty Images Hide caption

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Erik McGregor / LightRocket via Getty Images

In February 2019, protesters gathered in New York City to campaign for the decriminalization of sex trafficking in the city and state. Manhattan prosecutors announced more than two years later that they would end the prosecution of prostitution and move the dismissal of hundreds of related cases dating back decades.

Erik McGregor / LightRocket via Getty Images

Manhattan’s district attorney announced on Wednesday that his office will no longer prosecute prostitution and unlicensed massage. This is true under a new directive that is believed to be the first of its kind in New York.

Cyrus Vance Jr. also practically appeared before the Manhattan Criminal Court to petition the dismissal of more than 900 such cases dating back to the 1970s Press release. He moved to dismiss another 5,000 cases related to the disputed state Anti-Loitering Law, which New York Governor Andrew Cuomo repealed in February.

New York lifts the law

In a statement, Vance noted the disproportionate impact of such laws on the LGBTQ community and other vulnerable populations, and encouraged lawyers and survivors to facilitate these reforms.

“In the past decade, we’ve learned from both experienced and local people that prosecuting prostitution doesn’t make us safer and too often does the opposite by further marginalizing vulnerable New Yorkers,” Vance said . “By overturning arrest warrants, dismissing cases, and overturning convictions on these allegations, we are completing a paradigm shift in our approach.”

The Manhattan Attorney’s previous policy was to dismiss prostitution cases after the accused completed five consultations with service providers. In the future, the Human Trafficking Response Department will submit documents to formally deny prosecution and inform the arrested person about voluntary services.

The text of the new directive states that officials will not be prevented from “bringing other charges that may arise from an arrest related to prostitution”. A spokesman confirmed to NPR that the existing office will not be changed Approach to arrest Patron of prostitution.

But the change is expected to affect thousands of sex workers and victims of the sex trafficking, many of whom are women, people of color and members of the LGBTQ community.

“Black, brown, and East Asian women and girls, immigrants, and LGBTQ + persons have been disproportionately harmed by laws such as” Loitering for the Purpose of Prostitution “and” Unlicensed Practice “- an indictment often used for arrests – said Judy Kluger, general manager of legal services company Sanctuary for Families.

She added that the prosecutor is “making critical changes in his approach to sex trafficking and the way our communities support those most at risk of exploitation”.

Prosecutors said they had identified 5,994 cases in their 1976 records that included an open bank warrant and a peak fee for prostitution, unlicensed massage, or “loitering for the purpose of prostitution” – all offenses.

Of these, 878 are prostitution cases and 36 relate to unlicensed massages. The remaining 5,080 named “loitering for the purpose of prostitution” as the prime charge, and Vance asked the court to dismiss them as well. He said his office had not pursued this crime since 2016 and found it had been removed from the state’s criminal code earlier this year.

“These cases – many from the 1970s and 1980s – are both a relic of another New York City and a very real burden on the person carrying the conviction or warrant,” Vance said.

Many of these warrants were issued “at a time when we were unaware of the circumstances these people were facing,” added Vance. They have inflicted significant “collateral consequences” on vulnerable people, some of whom continue to live under threats of arrest on pending arrest warrants.

Should sex work be decriminalized?  Some activists say it's time

The national debate The question of whether sex work should be illegal is not new. Opponents say sex work is an exploitative industry and a victim’s occupation, while many proponents and scholars believe that decriminalization would actually protect sex workers and benefit public health.

A coalition of supporters formed the group Decrim NY in 2019 with a stated goal of working to “decriminalize, guttage, and destigmatize” the sex businesses in New York City and across the state.

Cecilia Gentili, the founder of Transgender Equity Consulting and co-founder of Decrim NY, described the policy change as “the kind of change our community has hoped for and campaigned for for decades.”

“This initiative to end the prosecution of people who are merely trying to survive through a depressed economy and to immediately dismiss the nearly 6,000 warrants for loitering, prostitution and unlicensed massage is one of the most important steps nationally in the endeavor End the criminalization of sex work, “said Gentili.

Abigail Swenstein, an attorney for the Legal Aid Society’s Exploitation Intervention Project who joined Vance in his motions to dismiss the cases, welcomed Wednesday’s announcement.

But she said politics shouldn’t replace pending legislation that would decriminalize sex work and exonerate already convicted persons and ask the legislature to pass them off.

Other jurisdictions in and outside New York have also taken steps to facilitate the prosecution of prostitution. Brooklyn District Attorney, for example said in January that he would turn down more than 1,000 prostitution-related arrest warrants from the past five decades.

Since taking office in Philadelphia in 2018 District Attorney Told his assistant prosecutors not to charge sex workers with prostitution if the person has less than two convictions; and Prosecutor Marilyn Mosby announced At the end of last month that the city will permanently stop prosecuting prostitution, trespassing and other minor charges.

He said Vance will not look a fourth term as district attorney in Manhattan, due to begin next January. As the roll call has reportedMost of the candidates standing for election in June have said they will not pursue consensual sex work cases.

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