LEGALIZING PROSTITUTION WOULD PROVIDE ECONOMIC BENEFITS AND REDUCE CRIMEDefinition of prostitution. I think it important to define prostitution as the consensual granting of sexual gratification by one person in exchange for money or other valuable consideration. This definition implies a legal contract, and thus only individuals at or above the age of majority would legally be entitled to enter into these contracts, either as purchaser or provider. Prostitution as I discuss it here does not include slavery, indentured or involuntary servitude, the participation of minors, or those individuals incapable of rationally and consciously deciding to engage in the activity. It is also important to consider that while the majority of prostitutes are women, a goodly portion are males or transgender.I think the two main conceptions of prostitutions are these: 1) Prostitution as a job like any other job. This is the “capitalist” argument of free market; if there is a demand for prostitutes, and if there are persons who are ready to sell their sexual services then an existence of a sex-market, is both inevitable and morally ok. 2) Prostitution as a type of victimization; under this view prostitutes are considered as victims. Victims of whom? They are victims of a society which manufactures the conditions that force some people (women usually, especially the poor and the jobless) to be involved in prostitution. They are furthermore a victim of male-driven culture, which turns women sexuality (or simple sexual gratification) into a commodity, thus paving the way for it’s marketing. This argument claims that prostitution is symbolic for male dominance, particularly over females. One of men’s rights in this culture, so to speak, is the use women for sexual satisfaction. One marries a woman, or dates a girl, and so gets his own free sex at home. Or in times of need, one exercises his right for sex by buying a “sex commodity”. In both cases the women is understood firstly and mainly as a sexual object which has to be gained in one or another way. The primary objection to these conceptions is that they reduce the individuals who are prostitutes (and for that matter also their patrons) to the status of things , and ignore their rights to have opinions, desires, civil rights (including freedom and autonomy), and a place within our society free from stigma and unwarranted persecution. A woman who has sex with multiple partners is behaving within the law. However, if that same woman were to charge a dollar for sex, the act would become illegal. Isn t that odd? Okay, if a dollar isn t a big deal, then what should be the deciding amount? How about removing the money factor from the whole debate? It is obvious that the argument isn t really over the amount. The real heart of the issue, in the minds of many people, is about controlling sexuality for moral reasons. Our society wastes vast sums enforcing an otherwise legal activity for no other purpose than enforcing a moral code imposed by organized religion s proselytizations. In addition, this enforcement curtails economic growth and funding for local governments. It is difficult to estimate the number of persons who currently work, or have ever worked as prostitutes for many reasons, including the various definitions of prostitution. Arrest figure ranges are over 100,000 per year. The National Task Force on Prostitution suggests that over one million people in the US have worked as prostitutes in the United States, or about 1% of American women.Average prostitution arrests include 70% females, 20% percent male prostitutes and 10% customers.2 A disproportionate number of prostitutes arrested are women of color, and although a minority of prostitutes are women of color, a large majority of those sentenced to jail are women of color. 85-90% of those arrested work on the street though street work accounts for approximately 20% of prostitutes. (Figures vary from city to city.) The ratio of on-street prostitution to off-street (sauna, massage parlor, in call-outcall escort) varies in cities depending on local law, policy and custom. Whereas street prostitution accounts for between 10 to 20% of the prostitution in larger cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York, in some smaller cities with limited indoor venues (or when indoor venues are closed down) street prostitution may account for approximately 50%.Percentages of male and female prostitutes vary from city to city. Estimates in some larger cities suggest 20-30% of prostitutes are male. In San Francisco, it has been estimated that 25% of the female prostitutes are transgender.Generation of taxes:The requirement that prostitutes obtain business licenses and comport themselves as any other legitimate business would not only result in direct taxation on their earnings while directing the license fees to local coffers, but would invariably result in taxes being paid as their incomes were spent. Also, if licensing of those utilizing the services of prostitutes were required, additional fees would be collected.Reduction in unemployment/dependency on social programs:It has been said that legalized prostitution will drive costs down; the opposite will most likely be true. Increasing the number of prostitutes will increase competition and lower costs. Making it legal would also drive costs down because illegal businesses of the past, like alcohol trade, were always higher during the illegal stage of their lifespan. That is how some people reason. In actuality, factor in medical personnel, overhead costs (secretaries, building space, security, etc), and government inspectors and the price will skyrocket. Instead of earning only ten to twenty dollars per trick , a prostitute will be compelled to charge more, not only for their own benefit, but to that of all the support personnel required to allow him or her to operate in a legal, safe, and clinical manner, thus further stimulating employment within the community. As a result of the low initial overhead and short-term training requirements of this line of work, more individuals will be able to enjoy the status of entrepreneurs. In addition, the nature of prostitution, with its inherent flexibility, lends itself to allowing an individual engaged in this business to hold additional jobs with no great inconvenience. Many individuals who would not otherwise be employable would find this business a golden opportunity for independence.Increased employability due to lack of social stigma:Currently, once a person gets a rap sheet as a known prostitute, she/he may be trapped and stigmatized for life, and may be unable to pursue other jobs. An arrest record for (illegal) prostitution limits that individual to a life of prostitution on the streets because it excludes them from other forms of employment. In other words, once a person has a prostitution citation on their record, they may not be able to secure other types of employment. In this case, the law has inadvertently acted to lock the convicted prostitute into a life of social dependency, poverty, abuse and misery. Making prostitution legal will allow the business to be handled more maturely. Instead of ladies of the evening hanging out on corners, where minors might be playing, pleasure engineers would wait in discrete parlors for reservations by customers where security and hygiene could easily be maintained. Instead of pimps controlling the lives of their prostitutes with violence and drugs, a madam would provide a safe, even friendly, place to provide services if the prostitute did not wish the effort or complexity of sole proprietorship. Some researchers suggest that prostitutes, in general, suffer from negative identities or lack of self-esteem. A 1986 study by Diane Prince, however, found call girls and brothel workers had higher self esteem than before they became prostitutes. 97% of call girls liked themselves more than before. (This study also examines suicide rates, and is often misquoted, referring to a statistic regarding call girls. In the context of pathologizing prostitutes, some mistakenly report that 75% percent of call girls have attempted suicide, however, according to this study 76% of call girls considered (not attempted) suicide, along with 61% of non-prostitutes, and only 42% of brothel workers. People with high self-esteem more vigorously pursue education and careers than those who do not, and are more likely to be productive members of society. Legalization of prostitution would enhance the self-esteem of sex-workers greatly by removing the guilt and fear associated with committing what is now an illegal act. Conversely, those hiring such persons would not be subject to stigmatization as a result, and so would be more likely to engage prostitutes in other forms of employment.Reduction of legal system costs to society:Most everywhere in the United States, our legal system penalizes prostitutes and their customers for what they do as consenting adults. Our courtrooms and police personnel are overburdened with these cases and are having little or no impact on prostitution. The prostitutes pay their fines and are back to the streets in no time. Catch and release may work for fishing but it has no deterrent effect on prostitution. The legalization debate is a civil rights issue too. What rights should two consenting adults have in privacy? Many people believe that the government should be careful how it addresses that question. A number of people even believe that the government should have no right deciding how adults conduct themselves sexually, even for money. In their defense, there are two arguments that are worth mentioning. One argument is that of a comparison to an already existing freedom. A woman is able to decide whether or not she wants to keep a pregnancy. This right has been attacked and upheld within many courtrooms. Intelligent individuals must have obviously examined all of the angles and sided with the rights of the individual. It is not hard to see why other people would like an equal amount of courtesy extended their way concerning prostitution. Compared to abortion, there would be less controversy surrounding prostitution if it were made legal today. The other argument addresses the sexual rights of women and that right can be expressed as having sex with multiple partners just as many men do. The issue of the exchange of money being the sole reason for persecution of these women becomes ludicrous in this context. Further, consider the gray area of this issue. Why is it that an arrangement which would otherwise be considered prostitution , such as a man giving a woman money with which she may purchase clothing, food, shelter, and so on in exchange for being allowed to sleep with her is sanctioned when the parties undergo a brief state ceremony (called marriage)? Even less formal arrangements than this are tolerated as legal in the case of the girlfriend . This inconsistency is unjust and is a direct attempt to legislate women s sexuality.Most laws against prostitution activities are written by the various state legislatures. These are the misdemeanors and felonies most used against alleged prostitutes. The penalties include sentences of up to six months in jail for misdemeanors and state prison terms of 16 months to eight years for felonies Adequate state and local laws already exist to respond when noise, trespassing and littering are problems. These infractions are punishable by fines, not by incarceration. Since they cannot be jailed upon conviction, people charged with these infractions do not have the right to a jury trial or an attorney. Since they are handled in traffic court, prosecution, defense and Sheriff’s resources are not needed. Failure to pay fines is a criminal offense, however; those who refuse to pay their fines may be prosecuted. Infractions are therefore a more cost-effective enforcement option than misdemeanors and felonies. Decriminalization of prostitution therefore, while it would not generate the economic stimulation discussed previously, would reduce by an order of magnitude the expense of society relating to this issue which could then be directed to more worthy goals such as education.
Under no circumstance, however, should these infractions be used to harass suspected prostitutes. Harassment and abuse of suspected prostitutes is a serious problem in the San Francisco Police Department, which is only recently coming to light. The very methods of enforcement encourage abuse: police officers pose as prospective clients and try to get suspects to say the words that will get them arrested. The police are most successful who most convincingly behave like clients. Many women complain of vice officers fondling them or exposing themselves before arresting them. These women refuse to report abusive officers because they fear retaliation or that they will not be believed. Despite the difficulty of uncovering and uprooting abuse, in 1994 a police officer in San Francisco was arrested for forcing a massage parlor worker to orally copulate him. In another instance, the City of San Francisco paid $85,000 in damages to a registered nurse who was falsely arrested and held when the officers suspected her of being a prostitute. In the course of that litigation, Federal District Court Judge Marilyn Hall Patel recommended that the U.S. attorney’s Office investigate the arresting officers for perjury during their testimony.The San Francisco Police Department acts as a gatekeeper for enforcing prostitution laws; its decisions on deployment of its resources subsequently obligate all other branches of the system to expend their resources as well. Currently, the Vice Crimes Division has primary responsibility for prostitution enforcement, augmented by patrol resources and special units such as the Tenderloin Task Force. The Vice Department comprises 12 police officers who devote the majority of their time and resources to prostitution abatement and the remainder to gambling. It also investigates any felonies committed by prostitutes. In 1994, there were 17 felony prostitution arrests made by the Vice Crimes Division.Vice Crimes Division personnel costs $815,452.30 Vice Crimes Division vehicle costs $ 8,000.00. While the Department could not report specifically how much it expends on prostitution abatement, there may be additional Vice Crimes Division costs not included in these two figures. General overhead expenses such as materials, light, heat, telephones, furniture and the like are aggregated in a different part of the police budget. Regular patrol officers at district stations supplement the Vice Division efforts. The Police Department does not provide any estimate of how much time and resources the uniformed patrol function applies to prostitution abatement. It should be noted that the patrol portion of the abatement effort often does not result in an arrest, but nevertheless consumes time, as patrol officers stop to conduct field interrogations of suspected loiterers or respond to complaints about prostitution activity. In a more regularized fashion, the Tenderloin Task Force has been conducting periodic “sweeps” of suspected prostitutes and drug sellers in the downtown core. The Chief of Police did not provide any accounting of the costs associated with these sweeps, in which uniformed officers patrol the downtown core in search of suspected prostitutes, arresting them under Penal Code section 372 which prohibits “public nuisance.” In past years these sweeps have occurred as often as several times a week, resulting in numerous arrests each night. Presently there are about 60 officers assigned to the Tenderloin Task Force, along with their equipment and overhead. Based on an average salary/benefit cost of $54,500 per officer, this Task Force costs approximately $3.2 million annually. The Tenderloin Task Force spends a significant portion their time and resources on prostitution abatement, so that estimated costs of related activities of this special unit amount to approximately $1.3 million. One other potentially significant expense is not included in these estimates. Arresting officers are paid overtime while awaiting court proceedings if they would otherwise not be on duty. Since most Vice officers work nights, the overtime costs may be significant. In addition, officers assigned to other departments work in Vice during their overtime hours. Some persons arrested for prostitution crimes are not booked, but cited to appear at a later date. Those cited are not immediately booked, but must be fingerprinted and processed on their first court date. Those expenses are not included in the official estimates. Each day in jail costs approximately $60 per inmate. Short-term incarceration costs and an educated projection of the above costs associated with booking, fingerprinting and processing on the first court date amount to approximately $312,000. The average prostitution court case requires five appearances: Arraignment; two or three pretrial conferences or disposition, dates; and a sentencing hearing upon conviction. Factors such as the complexity of the case, whether Pretrial Diversion is available, and other variables make it difficult to calculate precisely how much is spent on prostitution enforcement in the court system, however it is estimated that such costs to the city, including judicial salaries, clerks, bailiffs, courtroom overhead, etc., is approximately $2.5 million annually.The vast majority of those arrested and brought to court on prostitution-related charges are prosecuted and defended at public expense. The cost for the District Attorney’s office to prosecute these cases has been estimated at $750,000 annually.38 The Public Defender’s Office represents approximately 60 percent of those charged with prostitution. The cost to defend these cases is estimated at $500,000 annually. Most of those sentenced to jail terms serve 30 days to 90 days. Based on the reported $60 per day incarceration cost and the average daily number of prisoners serving prostitution-related sentences, it would appear that long-term incarceration costs approximate $985,500 annually. The total costs to San Francisco accounted for here amounts to $7,634,750.00. Given the many areas in which information is not available, or there are hidden costs, the over all expense to the taxpayer exceeds $7.6 million annually.Nationally, average arrest, court and incarceration costs amount to nearly $2,000.00 per arrest. Cities spend an average of 7.5 million dollars on prostitution control every year, ranging from 1 million dollars (Memphis) to 23 million dollars (New York). Is this the sort of money we wish to spend to persecute people we generally consider to already be victims?Increased reporting and solution of violent crimes:According to some estimates based on interviews in places where prostitution is illegal, 80% of the prostitutes had been physically assaulted since entering prostitution – 54% of those assaults were by customers. 67% of them had been raped since entering prostitution – 45% of these were rapes by customers. Other research has shown that from 55% to 90% of prostitutes are sexually abused as children, often by more than one perpetrator. Members of the illicit commercial sex industry recruit children intoprostitution when they are, on the average, thirteen years old. Poverty, and homelessness are major contributing factors to entering prostitution. 84% of the prostitutes interviewed had been homeless at some point in their lives.Prosecution of prostitution has exacerbated problems in the industry including violence and chemical dependency, while enforcement further marginalizes prostitutes. Prostitutes are afraid to call the police when they are crime victims, for fear of being arrested themselvesRepeated studies have shown that violence is one of the major problems for women and prostitutes. Figures vary, one report citing 60% of the abuse against street prostitutes perpetrated by clients, 20% by police and 20% in domestic relationships.9 According to one massage parlor owner, over 90% of abuse against some prostitutes takes place within domestic relationships. Between 35 and 85% of prostitutes are survivors of incest or early sexual abuse. Figures vary widely for different populations. A study of 130 street workers (primarily homeless) in San Francisco who engaged in prostitution or survival sex found that 80% had been physically assaulted. Some prostitutes are raped between 8 and 10 times a year or more. 7% seek help (e.g.. from a rape crisis center), and only 4% report the rape to the police. A recent study showed that, in cases of (non-domestic) rape and abuse, 5% of the perpetrators identified themselves as police officers, often producing badges and police identification. This does not include actual cases of police misconduct and rape. The low instance of reporting these crimes is directly related to the illegality of the activity, and the perpetrators of this violence are left free to commit further crimes, inflicting untold costs upon society. It is worth noting that in the houses of Nevada where prostitution is legal, crime against prostitutes of the type mentioned here is non-existant. Reduction in spread of disease and associated costs:The status quo is also a poor health safety plan. With the sexual diseases of old and new being transmitted, it makes practical sense to monitor this behavior. Legalization would require prostitutes to be medically examined on a regular basis. Right now illegal prostitutes can easily obtain and spread diseases, causing serious, widespread health problems, and putting pressure on the nation s health care system. Under California state law, those convicted of soliciting for prostitution are required to undergo mandatory HIV testing. This program is annually budgeted at $363,098.00. This program does not include testing for other types of diseases. Legalization would reduce if not eliminate these costs while increasing public safety by allowing for testing of all prostitutes and their clientele.Conclusion:In 1949, the United Nations adopted a resolution in favor of the decriminalization of prostitution, which has been ratified by fifty countries (not by the United States). Many countries complied with decriminalization by decriminalizing prostitution per se, leaving all related activities criminal such as soliciting, advertising, etc. In 1973 the National Organization for Women passed a resolution supporting the decriminalization of prostitution.