Comments Supporting the Proposed Ordinance Safety First Protecting Sex Workers from Violence and the Board of Supervisors’ Resolution Upon Which it is Based

”The National Lawyers Guild San Francisco Bay Area chapter strongly supports a city ordinance that would prioritize violence against sex workers and deprioritize enforcement of prostitution offenses.  The millions of dollars spent year after year harassing, arresting, and prosecuting prostitution crimes is urgently needed for programs that target violence against women and services that could help sex workers and their families.  We believe implementing the resolution passed in 2000 by the Board of Supervisors will have a tremendously positive impact on communities where sex work is common and encourage sex workers to come forward if they are themselves victims of violent crimes.”

Carlos Villarreal, Executive Director
National Lawyers Guild San Francisco Bay Area

“Prostitution is a way for many people to get resources unavailable to them. It is often a matter of survival. To criminalize prostitution blocks future possibilities for individuals to seek other forms of work. We do know people who have walked away from prostitution when they had other means of surviving. Let us put our efforts into helping create resources for people whose basic needs are not met, rather than block their way with punitive measures of “law” enforcement.”

Faithful Fools Ministry

 “I fully support the proposed Safety First: Protecting Sex Workers from Violence Ordinance.  It comes at an important time, as Amnesty International has initiated a national campaign to stop violence against women.  The prosecution and detention system should be used to protect and benefit the community.  Resources must be re-allocated from the victimless law breaking of prostitution to the protection from harm of all women including sex workers.”

Corey Weinstein, MD, CCHP (founder California Prison Focus, outgoing Chair, International Human Rights Committee of the American Public Health Association)

“Women driven to prostitution by social factors should not be criminalized. Social factors which drive women to prostitution: poverty, racism, sexism, must be addressed seriously, without discrimination against sex workers.”

Nedra Ruiz, Attorney

“Violence of any kind is unacceptable, and needs to be vigorously investigated and prosecuted by law enforcement.  We are counting on the SFPD and the DA to keep everyone safe.  Sex workers need support from the community to improve their lives, not violence and harassment.”

Erika McDonald, San Francisco Green Party Spokesperson

“The lack of recognition of women’s caring work, resulting cuts in welfare/healthcare and government benefits and no viable economic options is why many Black/women of color resort to sex work to make ends meet. The Safety First Initiative is a truly antiracist effort which in pressing for funds to be redirected from arresting and jailing women into survival resources such as help with housing, childcare or groceries, gives a concrete solution to the core problem.  The Safety First Initiative is a real challenge to the racist mal-distribution of wealth and to the targeting by the police of women of color, many of whom are mothers, who are the majority of women in prison. It is practical, winnable and will make a real difference in the lives of the women and their families.”

 Nell Myhand, Women of Color in the Global Women’s Strike

  “As the Director of the Criminal Defender Clinic at the New College of California School of Law, I have worked with many people charged with prostitution related offenses.  I strongly support the “Mitigating Violence Against Prostitutes” resolution as it represents a strong statement of support for the rights of sex workers.  I also support the resolution because it provides a much needed statement acknowledging the urgent need to protect sex workers from violent crime.“

Stephanie Adraktas, Criminal Defender Clinic, New College of California School of Law

“The draconian practice of persecuting poor people around social issues can be witnessed when individuals are brought into the criminal justice system for anything from panhandling to prostitution, from sitting to sleeping. When there is no victim, there is no crime. When no harm is done, no harm should be done in the form of jailing, fining and arresting.”

J. Friedenbach, Executive Director, Coalition on Homelessness

“As a former resident of a “red light” district in the Mission (near 16th & Capp St.) I saw  the violence that prostitute women on the street experience.  Their poverty forces them to place their lives on the line on a daily basis.   We need to work together to end this violence and start providing support for things women can really use like rent money, childcare, and job training rather than wasting money on arrests that do not help the women or the neighborhoods.  Let’s prosecute the perpetrators of violence, not its victims.”

Betty Traynor, SF resident

“ISF wholeheartedly supports the long overdue Ordinance that is currently drafted by US PROStitutes Collective, to end the criminalization of prostitute and the increased incidence of senseless violence perpetrated by law enforcement against Sex Workers.

Sadly, a growing number of Sex Workers have become clients of ISF, seeking support, a safe place to meet and share ideas on how to fight their criminalization. Many do not report Police abuse to the authorities, because of the stigma attached to their profession, and other socio- economic reasons.”
Mesha Monge-Irizarry, director, Idriss Stelley Foundation (ISF)

 As someone who has lived in San Francisco since the early 1970’s, I’ve seen unrelenting police efforts to “deal” with prostitutes, sex workers, etc.  The time and money spent on to keep things “under control” by harassment, arrests, etc., has only resulted in marginalizing and criminalizing essentially victimless transactions.  If one half of the money spent on policing sex workers had been spent on services for them instead, including health care, counseling, help getting schooling and self-maintained housing, I am certain that countless thousands of both sex workers and their clients, who have since died as victims of violent crime or of disease, drug addiction, would still be alive today.  As a gay man, I’m keenly aware that all this especially applies to the sub-group gay and bi youth who run away from homes where they are mistreated, abused and even hated and end up living on San Francisco streets.

 David DeNeef, SF resident





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