Bil Browning

The prostitute's day in court

Filed By Bil Browning | September 18, 2007 8:35 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: justice, LGBT criminals, prostitutes, sex workers

I was really pleased that so many of you weighed in on my post about the prostitute problem in my area. (The neighborhood association sent out an e-mail asking folks to attend one woman's trial and press the judge to lock her up for a while.) Here's the update on what happened during her day in court. (I edited out any identifying information to protect privacy.)

On Thursday, September 13th, about fifteen Irvington residents appeared before Judge Heather A. Welch in Marion County Court for a hearing regarding ABC XYZ who has been arrested over 20 times for prostitution and other crimes. After hearing the evidence, Judge Welch agreed with the plea agreement and sentenced Ms. XYZ to the statutorily required 180 days on each of the three cases she pled with the knowledge that the sentences would be served consecutively. A fourth felony case was dismissed. The 540 day sentence will be executed in the Department of Corrections. This will work out to be approximately 218 actual days once you give her 1-for-1 good time credit and credit for days she served while her cases were pending. Ms. XYZ should be off the street for about 7 months.

prostitutes.jpgSo let's continue the conversation, shall we? Do you think the punishment is fair? If not, what could the neighbors have done to solve the problem? According to the original e-mail and comments on the last post, Ms. XYZ refused several chances at rehabilitation and has a history of crime. This is a really thorny issue that we'll never be able to solve on our own, but I'm willing to take the suggestions to the neighborhood association to see if they'll implement any of them. Keep in mind that from my observations most of the local women seem to have drug addiction problems.


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Bil:

You hit on a very important issue and a problem not easily solved. In theory, these women would all like to be doing something else to make money. They probably all feel like they are trapped in some way. Ultimately, however, this prostitute got up in the morning and chose to turn tricks. For that, she should be held accountable.

As for the residents of your community association, I understand their concern. Her activities endanger not only herself but others. I can see their desire to send a message to her and others who might follow in her footsteps.

However, she most likely will return to her prostitution if someone doesn't help her deal with whatever problem she faces. Perhaps someone will reach out to her while she's in prison, but that seems unlikely. Instead, she's probably more likely to be corrupted by the people she meets there.

I wish I had a better solution for you...

The drug addiction issue is a big problem.
What to do about it is beyond my ability fashion a solution.

To give up prostitution for a minimum wage job ($5.15/hr in most states) is admittedly asking quite a bit considering in most places you cannot rent a studio apartment on a minimum wage paycheck.
There was a transgender person here in SanDiego who was a prostitute and use to boast about how money this person made. The attitude was “why should I work for Jack in the box or Dairy Queen for minimum wage when on most days I make $150.00 for something I like doing.
That was 5 years ago I haven’t seen this person since.

You do need to move them out of your neighborhood even if it is by videotaping them and posting the video to You Tube. And or Google Video.

Take care,
Sue

As for the residents of your community association, I understand their concern. Her activities endanger not only herself but others.

How exactly is being thrown into a racist, sexist, and violently oppressive prison system going to make anyone safer? If you really want to support this woman you’ll advocate for decriminalized prostitution, an end to police and neighborhood harassment, and/or any other point recommended by Emi Koyama.

The suggestion that this woman needs to be protected from herself, and that the government (or a neighborhood association) is better equipped to make decisions about her body, strikes me as sexist as fuck.

Really, I think Emi said it best, “Anti-prostitution activists’ collusion with the law enforcement oppresses women.”

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She should be held accountable.

Held accountable to what? The law? It is not acceptable to determine whether something is good or bad based on laws passed by rich white men. Can we please drop the idea that prostitution is bad or harmful simply because it is illegal?

At least with decriminalized prostitution we can have this activity behind closed doors and away from our children where it belongs in the first place. we can have mandatory STD testing to ensure that the spread of same is minimized. We can license the men and woman who wish to prostitute themselves; and with licensing fees and a tax, support the regulatory infrastructure necessary to maintain high standards and enforce compliance with the necessary health and safety regulations. (sorry for the excessively long sentence)

Then i would be in full support of legalizing prostitution.

Take care
Sue

I don't know if libertarianism/paleo-conservatism is the solution, Nick. I mean, we can say that people aren't exploited all we want and that they should have the right to choose what they want to do with their bodies (and apparently whereever they want, fuck the other people who are affected by their actions). I mean, wouldn't, by the logic that the government, etc., can't make decisions that govern often exploitative work because it's "sexist as fuck", it be true then that the government stepping in and attempting to stop sweatshop labor, etc., abroad (which it doesn't do, I acknowledge) be "racist as fuck" because it's deciding that people of color can't decide for themselves where they want to work?

This is of course more complicated because arguments about exploited workers aren't applied uniformly and are often presented as subterfuge to justify actual misogyny. It brings to mind this piece about legalized prostitution in Nevada, how it worsened the exploitation of women, how it increased illegal prostitution, and how it resulted in terrible working conditions and discriminatory local laws for registered prostitutes. One quote from a Nevada prostitute:

It's like you sign a contract to be raped.

That's why I'm not so sure about libertarianism here, and contracts and free entry into just another job, especially in the context of a patriarchal society.

Hm.

About the "rich, white man" laws, well, the people making those laws don't live in Bil's neighborhood or in any neighborhood in Indianapolis with sex workers soliciting openly. They live up in the affluent suburbs, those power-brokers, where they don't really have to worry about being harassed while driving into their garages or walking the streets near them, and the prostitutes there have "massage parlors" or other means of soliciting that are more discreet.

But I am noticing something here - if these women (or men) were selling anything else with the same aggressive techniques - Bibles, perfume, newspapers - would anyone be talking about how they're oppressed or victims of some sort of circumstance? Then again, would anyone hesitate in calling the police to get rid of these people? I live in the country, where the last uninvited person who didn't live here to walk down my street was a census taker, so I really wouldn't know. I just know that if someone set up shop right in front of my house, I'd probably go out to see if they're crazy.

It brings to mind [Julie Bindel's] piece about legalized prostitution

I've read that piece before, and completely agree that it highlights a horrible problem. But does that condemn legalized prostitution in all contexts? I don’t think so. It is obvious to me that the solution lies in fixing, or doing away with, the way that prostitution is regulated in Nevada and stopping the push of sex work to the literal and metaphorical fringes of society. I don’t believe that the solution to the violence of women being locked in “pussy penitentiaries” is to re-criminalize sex work and lock them in real ones.

It sounds like you are operating under the assertion that sex work is inherently more exploitative than other forms of labor in our sexist, racist, capitalist society, presumably because it involves sex. I disagree with that. It is the conditions under which some sex work occurs that potentially make it more exploitative or oppressive than other work, just like it is the conditions under which sweat shop labor occurs that make it more exploitative and oppressive than other textile work.

To expand on your reference to the brothels in Nevada, any work done under those conditions would be considered exploitative. That’s why this is workers’ rights issue.

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About the "rich, white man" laws

My only point was that it is not acceptable to declare something bad or harmful simply because it is illegal under US law. I’d be surprised if you disagree so maybe we lost something in communication.

No, I don't disagree, and it is pretty annoying when people argue that just because something is legal/illegal that it's by extension good/bad.

But I was making a point, in a round-about way, that the people who are making those laws aren't the same people in the neighborhood associations that Emi talked about, this case being a pretty good example. And I do think that there is a time and a place for solicitation and selling things (for anything) and that aggressively selling something can be really annoying if you're being bombarded with requests right in your driveway, as Bil mentioned earlier. It's just like, the rich neighborhoods didn't like it, so they kicked out the prostitutes and now they're in other neighborhoods bothering other people, but hey, they aren't the city's power brokers, so they can just deal.

I'm saying this is a whole lot more complicated than "rich white men oppressing poor women, possibly of color".

On the oppression of women - yeah, I see your point. I thought you were arguing that sex workers are oppressed in no contexts, or that legalization would end all such oppression. I actually thought that too until I started reading up on Nevada. No, sex work isn't inherently more oppressive than other labor, but it is something that's uniquely exploited in the context of a patriarchal society, which is what we're stuck with for the moment.

I can see how powerful the narrative of the oppressed sex worker is at this point. I'm thinking that if they're not oppressed, that if they're making the big decision on their own to solicit aggressively right in front of people's houses, then, well, they seem like a bunch of jackasses to me. That narrative might be an "out" for some people (including me) in order to avoid the pitfalls of just condemning these women to prison. What a dichotomy we progressives have set up!

Of course, just because someone's a jackass or is harassing others doesn't mean that she deserves the oppression that is prison or that prison will work to solve that problem. I guess we could stand to create appropriate spaces for solicitation, but then that seems to lead right back in to the Nevada situation.

This is more complicated than just the sex workers in front of Bil's house, indeed. Sorry, Bil, but I don't have any answers!

And one more thing, Nick. I'd add that I'm particularly annoyed when queers make slip between legal and good and illegal and bad. As if we've forgotten pre-Lawrence days, as if those were the only unjust laws. We should know better!

I don't know that any of us have "the" answer. They don't call it the world's oldest profession for nothing...

But shipping her off to prison doesn't seem to be the solution, that's for damn sure!