Prostitution laws restrain women’s choice to make easy money by exploiting men’s need for sex, proximity and love. As a side effect, they fill up US prisons with felons guilty of victimless crimes.
After a single prostitution conviction, suspects can face a felony in a subsequent arrest, which Gainer calls “draconian.”
“Most states in the country don’t do it like we do it. Only eight states have a statute for felony prostitution — and Illinois is one of them,” Gainer told the Sun-Times. “With the jail hitting its limits in population, it’s incumbent for us to look at who actually needs to spend two months in jail awaiting trial,” she said, noting her research shows the cost of jailing suspected prostitutes costs upwards of $9.5 million. “There are better options.”
Under a resolution introduced Wednesday at the regular County Board meeting, officials are also urging the state Legislature to amend Illinois law and wipe the felony prostitution charge off the books.
Sadly, the main concern is not with the poor victims of repressive sex laws: the prostitutes offering their services to men in need for sex and companionship, or the men who seek entertainment, sex, companionship and are willing to pay for that.
The main worry are overcrowded prisons, and government expenses for imprisoning people who commit victimless crimes.
Elected officials in Chicago are calling for a moratorium on felony charges for prostitution to reduce overcrowding at Cook County jail. The jail now houses 10,008 detainees and is likely to exceed the maximum capacity of 10,150 soon. In a news conference Wednesday, several county commissioners pointed to the law’s disproportionate focus on non-violent felonies like prostitution: […]
According to Illinois Department of Corrections records, there were 127 prostitution admissions in 2012, costing $2 million. End Demand Illinois, an advocacy group against sex traffickers, estimates that holding an individual facing felony prostitution charges costs Cook County $5.3 to $9.5 million every year. Illinois has one of the harshest prostitution policies in the nation; only 7 other states still charge prostitution as a felony, and Illinois is the only state to allow felony prosecution after one offense.
At best, targeting sex workers is unproductive; at worst, it discourages these women — most of whom were recruited into the sex trade at age 16 or younger — from leaving or reporting their pimps. Moreover, the criminal justice system tends to dole out sentences with a racial bias. A recent study conducted in Cook County found that black defendants are at least 30 percent more likely to be sent to prison by a judge than white defendants for the same crime.
Cook County may be motivated to relax this draconian policy by budget troubles, if not by compassion. State prison spending has more than tripled over the last 3 decades, making it the second fastest-growing burden on state budgets. The problem has become so unsustainable that even conservative social scientists now recommend alternative sentencing programs that would reduce the prison population by at least one-third. While the moratorium on felony charges is a stopgap measure, the Illinois Senate is also considering a bill to do away with felony sentencing for prostitution entirely.
US policy is not to make prostitution safer, more pleasant, to allow women to safely choose an occupation that gives them easy money, and to allow men to easily fulfill their need for sex and companionship. Rather, the only goal of US policy is to reduce prostitution at all cost.
The city recently decided to put a hold on the "Stay Out of Areas of Prostitution" legislation that would have been implemented to deter continuing offenders from repeating their crimes. This legislation is essentially designed to keep people charged with prostitution out of high-prostitution areas, creating so-called prostitution-free zones.
"Our greatest hope is to come up with a solution that ultimately reduces prostitution," said Carlos Campos, deputy director for the Mayor’s Office of Communications. "There were concerns that SOAP targeted women and we want legislation that is fair to everyone involved. We need a balanced approach to implementing consequences and actually handling the issue."
Initial disproval of SOAP came from women’s rights advocates who said that the legislation does nothing for rehabilitation of women charged with prostitution and does not take the appropriate measures to penalize "johns." The city will continue its hold on this legislation until the Working Group reports back with new or amended legislation.
"Handling prostitution is a public health issue as well as a public safety issue," said Pastor Donna Hubbard, founder and executive director of Woman at the Well Transition Center. "It also needs to be a community investment. These are our communities being affected and Mayor Reed has taken a bold step creating this group."