|Action Alert…. US PROStitutes Collective….Action Alert End Criminalization of Women for Trying to Make Ends Meet.
In August 2008, Ms G, a 21-year-old Black mother of two appeared at Alameda County Superior Court on three prostitution charges, including violation of a “Stay Out of Areas of Prostitution Order”.
Ms G was working as a prostitute having been denied affordable housing and an adequate income to support herself and her two young children. Like thousands of women she is now struggling desperately to make ends meet. Her total monthly income is a Calworks (welfare) grant of $307. Social services told her that her “income is too low to qualify for low income housing.” US PROS along with Legal Action for Women contacted several agencies for help, including the Department of Human Services, New Crossroads Shelter, Henry Robinson Center, Eden Information and Referral. None provided any assistance. Now trying to get housing will get worse if the planned privatization of 1615 Oakland public housing units goes through. This would impact thousands of people including Ms G, other single mothers, children, elders and people with disabilities. Many of those impacted are also losing cash grants and food stamps, and facing cuts in services under the recently passed State Budget.
Ms G was forced to plead guilty under threat of going to jail and being separated from her children. A young, white, arrogant DA was determined to vigorously prosecute the case despite the obvious injustice of criminalizing a young mother for what is essentially consenting sex.
Ms G was sentenced to 18 days community service (Sheriff’s Work Alternative Program – SWAP) with a requirement that she get her GED by November ’08. Then came the sting in the tail. Ms G was charged a $281 fee for the SWAP program and $165 in fines and court fees. To stay out of jail, she not only has to raise money for basic survival for herself and her children, but has to pay SWAP fees totaling $446 to the criminal justice system — a set-up that could force her back onto the street and yet another charge. And, that is on top of the humiliation of giving 18 precious days of her life to community service that provides no training for viable alternative employment.
The abuses Ms G faces are within the context of criminalization of sex workers and the racism entrenched in the legal system. But all the evidence confirms that the public is strongly opposed to the criminalization of sex work and the way it makes women vulnerable to violence and exploitation. Proposition K, a San Francisco ballot initiative which calls for the decriminalization of prostitution, for sex worker arrests to be a low police priority and for the diversion of funds from criminalization to help for sex workers, is gathering widespread support, including from the Democratic Central Committee/SF.
We demand and end to the prosecution of prostitution offenses and the abolition of SWAP fees. Those eligible for SWAP programs are likely to have been convicted of crimes of poverty such as prostitution offences, minor theft, etc Many of those impacted will be single mothers and/or vulnerable in other ways and are likely to be on a low income. Black and Brown women are disproportionately targeted. Criminalization and court fees do nothing but force people into further criminality to get the money to pay fines and fees under threat of jail.
For more information contact US PROStitutes Collective or Legal Action for Women
At 415 626 4114 or email firstname.lastname@example.org