DEFEND SEX WORKER RIGHTS! URGENT ACTION NEEDED!

 

URGENT: Please join the sex worker and other organizations listed below and support their opposition to the sex worker aspects of SB 1110, a bill in the California legislature that establishes a LEAD (Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion) program.  The bill has already been amended and passed in the state Senate and has been sent to the Assembly Public Safety Committee where a hearing will be held on June 28th – please urgently write/phone these Committee members (info follows). And add your organization’s endorsement to this call!

The California legislature is now considering a bill SB 1110 that establishes a LEAD (Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion) program. This program authorizes police to refer sex workers to a treatment program or go to jail. We are urging withdrawal of the clauses related to sex workers.

SB 1110 was drafted without input from sex workers.  It goes against the demands of the sex worker movement internationally which is for decriminalization, because it treats sex work not as a job but as a disease and sex workers not as workers but as offenders in need of treatment and rehabilitation.  Amnesty International, The Lancet Medical Journal, Open Society Foundation and other key organizations support decriminalization.

Similar programs to those proposed in SB 1110 have been extremely problematic. For example, in Seattle (which is used as an example of good practice for SB 1110) hundreds of people were swept off the street and into LEAD by a four-month police and FBI undercover operation to clean-up downtown.

LEAD is law enforcement led. It gives the police the power to decide who gets arrested or not and who goes into the program, and puts access to services in police hands. The amended version of SB 1110 remains problematic as police will be able to refer someone they believe has “probable cause for arrest” for drug or prostitution related offenses to the LEAD program. We all know who will be targeted for police referrals: Black, trans, immigrants, low and no income people. Once referred, sex workers are compelled to complete an “assessment intake interview” within a set period of time or will be charged and face jail. Law enforcement can also conduct “social contact referrals” for individuals whom he or she “believes is at high risk of arrest in the future”.

Seattle’s LEAD program speaks of being inspired by “arrest-referral” projects in the UK. But sex workers there complain that these programs have not stopped criminalization. Instead they have: increased police powers over sex workers; cut into the ability of sex workers to earn a living; undermined the independence of the few sex worker services that do exist, turning them into an arm of law enforcement.

Rising poverty is increasing the numbers of women, particularly mothers, going into sex work. For those of us who want to get out of prostitution we need money and resources not punitive rehabilitation programs.  The bill includes a diversion program for drug users, which is not being opposed, so anyone who wants drug treatment has this option.

Initiated by: US PROStitutes Collective and joined by BAYSWAN; Black Trans Lives Matter; Coyote, Rhode Island; Empower Foundation, Thailand; Desiree Alliance; English Collective of Prostitutes; Erotic Services Providers Union; Kate Zen, Migrant Sex Workers Project, Canada; Red Light Legal; Red Umbrella Project; SWOP-USA;  SWOP Bay Area; SWOP LA; SWOP Sacramento.  Endorsed by:  All of Us or None; Legal Services for Prisoners with Children; Los Angeles No More Jails Coalition; Margaret Prescod, Founder, Black Coalition Fighting Back Serial Murders, Women of Color/Global Women’s Strike; Youth Justice Coalition.

URGENT – WHAT YOU CAN DO:

Ø  Endorse this call (see tick box below).  Please send your endorsement to US PROStitutes Collective: uspros@prostitutescollective.net, or call 415-626-4114 (Bay Area) or 323-276-9833 (SoCal).

Ø  Urge members of the Assembly Public Safety Committee, where SB 1110 is currently being discussed, to remove the clauses that relate to sex work.  A model letter is attached below for easy use – complete and email to the staff person working with each Committee member on this bill:
l  Reginald B. Jones-Sawyer, Sr, Chair- Michael.Lynch@asm.ca.gov  (916) 319-2059
l  Melissa A. Melendez- Matthew.Borasi@asm.ca.gov (916) 319-2067
l  Tom Lackey- Antoine.Hage@asm.ca.gov  (916) 319-2036
l  Patty Lopez- Christopher.Sanchez@asm.ca.gov  (916) 319-2039
l  Evan Low- Gina.Frisby@asm.ca.gov   (916) 319-2028
l     Bill Quirk- Tomasa.Duenas@asm.ca.gov   (916) 319-2020
l  Miguel Santiago- Brandon.Gaytan@asm.ca.gov  (916) 319-2053

Ø  Urge Senator Hancock, who introduced SB 1110, to remove the clauses that relate to sex work from the bill.  Complete the model letter and email to Senator.Hancock@senate.ca.gov, cc to Natalie.Cha@sen.ca.gov.  Or call the Senator at (916) 651-4009 or (510) 286-1333.

SB 1110 is moving rapidly through the California legislature right now, so your urgent action on this is needed. Thank you.

Yes we/I endorse this call urging withdrawal of sex worker aspects of SB 1110.

YOUR NAME:

ORGANIZATION:

YOUR CONTACT DETAILS (EMAIL, PHONE NUMBER):

PROBLEMS RAISED BY SIMILAR DIVERSION SCHEMES

–  The bill SB 1110 says that sex workers would be referred to services which “may include, but are not limited to, housing, medical care, child care, treatment for alcohol or substance abuse, nutritional counseling and treatment, psychological counseling, employment, and employment training education.” Sounds impressive but few services exist that are independent of law enforcement. Many existing services are judgmental and punitive. They are mostly mandatory and women are forced to jump through hoops to get any help. In some services for example in hostels, women are closely supervised and not allowed to have their children with them – cruel and with lifelong consequences for both children and mothers. There is no new money so these existing services are likely to be the ones that get the referrals. In NYC sex workers have been forced into as many as ten programs in six months, some had to drop out of school in order to meet the requirements and they have no way of earning money. Relationships between sex workers and the non-profit service projects have deteriorated because the projects now have power of arrest and imprisonment over sex workers.

–   SB 1110 allocates $65,000 to review and approve applications for participation in the LEAD pilot programs and $7 million a year for services. The independence of non-profit services is corrupted as the services are increasingly recruited to be part of the criminal justice system. In the UK outreach projects have taken on the role of probation services, for example monitoring women to see if they abide by the terms of their rehab and breaching them if they “fail”. In some cases the police were based at the rehab projects a lot of the time and the project workers promoted the police as “partners”.

–   The bill only mentions 647(b) i.e. soliciting, which most sex workers are arrested under, but women working the streets can be arrested for loitering, and local municipal police codes to get them off the street. What is proposed for sex workers charged with these other offences?

–   Diversion programs allow the police to present themselves as social workers rather than law enforcement. Policing methods do not change but are now justified in the name of saving victims.

–   The Black Lives Matter movement has brought to the attention of the nation and the world the institutionalized racism embedded in law enforcement and the cozy relationship between law enforcement and DA offices.   The Black Coalition Fighting Back Serial Murders in LA, who have been at the forefront of fighting for justice for the scores of Black women serial murder victims and their families, have protested against the racist negligence by law enforcement that allowed the murders to go on for decades. Law enforcement referred to the murders of prostitutes and drug addicts as NHI (No Humans Involved)

–    It is harder to find out information about how many sex workers are being arrested as the facts are hidden behind “good news” stories about sex workers’ redemption. Behind these many arrests may continue.

–   In the UK rehab has not kept sex workers out of prison. Women are given rehab orders that inevitably are breached because they are impractical, patronizing and/or punitive, and crucially prevent women from making a living. When breaches occur, sex workers are back in court. After a number of court appearances judges revert back to fining or imprisonment.

–   A sector of non-profits which have been hostile to decriminalization and which are key opponents to sex workers’ struggle for justice and rights will be emboldened against us. Projects like Safe House in the Bay Area work closely with the police and have consistently stood against decriminalization. Why give them more power?

–   The NGO industrial complex which undermines the sex worker rights movements as well as other movements for racial, social, economic and environmental justice, has been strengthened.  In the UK a network of non-profit sector groups was spawned which appeared to be independent but was in fact driven by the groups relationship with the police.

–   The movement for decriminalization is undermined as these measures are often considered more palatable than decriminalization to those in positions of power and to all who gain from our criminalization. The approach is just that of getting the police to be nice and then you don’t need decriminalization. Decriminalization is supported by prestigious international organizations and agencies such as: Amnesty International, UNAIDS, UNFPA, UNDP, WHO, Global Alliance Against Trafficking in Women (GAATW), Human Rights Watch, the Lancet, Open Society Foundations.

*****

Model Letter to Legislators:

Dear [fill in the legislator],

I write concerning SB 1110, Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion, and in support of withdrawing the clauses that relate to sex workers in the bill.

[Please say something here about your situation/experience and why you have an interest in this issue.]

I object to sex workers being included in a bill about law enforcement diversion firstly because it was drafted without input from sex workers. SB 1110 treats sex work not as a job, but as a disease, and sex workers not as workers but as offenders in need of treatment and rehabilitation.

The sex worker clauses in SB 1110 go against the international sex worker movement for decriminalization which is endorsed by prominent organizations like: Amnesty International, UNAIDS, UNFPA, UNDP, WHO, Global Alliance Against Trafficking in Women, Human Rights Watch, The Lancet medical journal and Open Society Foundation.

Sex workers in other cities where LEAD and similar programs have been introduced have reported terrible problems. For example, in Seattle (which is used as an example of good practice for SB 1110) hundreds of people were swept off the street and into LEAD by a four month police and FBI undercover operation to clean-up downtown.

The LEAD program in SB 1110 is law enforcement led.  It gives the police the power to decide who gets arrested or not and who goes into the program, and puts women’s access to services in police hands.  If sex workers refuse LEAD will they be charged?  What happens if they complete the assessment intake interview but then want out or are kicked out?

The Black Lives Matter movement has brought to the attention of the nation and the world law enforcement’s institutionalized racism and the cozy relationship between law enforcement and DA offices.  The Black Coalition Fighting Back Serial Murders in LA, who have been at the forefront of fighting for justice for the scores of Black women serial murder victims and their families, have protested against the racist negligence by law enforcement that allowed the murders to go on for decades. Law enforcement referred to the murders of prostitutes and drug addicts as NHI (No Humans Involved).  Why would sex workers, especially women of color, trans people and immigrants, feel safe putting their futures in the hands of the police?

Rising poverty is increasing the numbers of women, particularly mothers, going into sex work. For sex workers who want to get out of prostitution they need money and resources not punitive rehab programs.

We urge you to withdraw the clauses that relate to sex workers from SB 1110, in support of a call that was initiated by US PROStitutes Collective and joined by BAYSWAN; Black Trans Lives Matter; Coyote, Rhode Island; Empower Foundation, Thailand; Desiree Alliance; English Collective of Prostitutes; Erotic Services Providers Union; Kate Zen, Migrant Sex Workers Project, Canada; Red Umbrella Project; SWOP-USA;  SWOP Bay Area; SWOP LA; SWOP Sacramento.  It has been endorsed by All of Us or None; Legal Services for Prisoners with Children; Los Angeles No More Jails Coalition; Margaret Prescod, Founder, Black Coalition Fighting Back Serial Murders, Women of Color/Global Women’s Strike; Youth Justice Coalition.

Thank you for your attention to these problematic aspects of SB 1110.  We look forward to hearing what action you take.

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