top
From the Open-Publishing Calendar
From the Open-Publishing Newswire
Indybay Feature
Related Categories: San Francisco | Government & Elections
Yes on Prop K: The Police, The DA, and SAGE--A lucrative partnership
by US Prostitute's Collective
Saturday Nov 1st, 2008 2:26 PM
The Police, The DA, and Sage--A lucrative partnership
Since the First Offender Prostitution Program in San Francisco (FOPP) began in 1995, there has been much public concern over the amount of money it costs to the city of San Francisco, the use of that money and the increasing criminalization of women and men arrested for prostitution charges.

The path-breaking 1996 San Francisco Task Force on Prostitution recommended decriminalization of prostitution and a diversion of funds from prosecution to protection. The FOPP has been used to oppose demands for decriminalization as it gained wider public support.

FOPP’s three main partners are the police, the District Attorney’s Office and Standing Against Global Exploitation (SAGE). It’s stated aim is “an educational program for first offenders, rehabilitation, vocational training . . .for women trying to exit prostitution and services to aid girls to permanently exit the criminal justice system”. What that means in practice is that women and men arrested for prostitution-related activities in street sweeps are diverted to FOPP programs and men can be charged $1000 to attend. Public defenders report that people are sent to FOPP by the courts in preference to other diversion programs, which are free and reportedly more effective. How is the decision made by the court what program women are to be sent to?


Women complain that: they are forced to participate in “prostitution classes” or face jail and fines; the rehabilitation is humiliating, condescending and inappropriate and does nothing to address the reasons they may have been forced into prostitution such as lack of housing and childcare, low wages, debt etc. A former sex worker who was referred to SAGE says:

“They pay lip service to helping women and get a lot of money for computer training, mental health services, harm reduction classes, art therapy, but there is practically nothing at all. The biggest sham is job and vocational programs, they don’t offer any of that. There were four computers, two were broken. I left there exactly as I entered after nine months.”

Other women are forced to attend SAGE to get their children back from Child Protective Services. Women say what is needed are voluntary services independent of the criminal justice system.

The counselors at FOPP’s John’s School (school for clients), including feminists have attacked sex workers’ rights organizations while passing as experts in prostitute women’s suffering and benefiting financially. Some of the women who have attended public forums to speak in favor of SAGE are court mandated to attend FOPP and complain that they cannot voice any criticism for fear of being evicted from the program.

Unanswered questions not addressed by the published information on FOPP include: how many women a year are arrested and how many are charged with prostitution offences in San Francisco; how many women attended FOPP; was the program offered as an alternative to the criminal justice system or did women still get arrest records; are these statistics separated out according to race and if not can they be to show how many Black, immigrant and other women of color are arrested and go through FOPP; do they go into general FOPP funds and are distributed to the three main partners the police, the District Attorney’s Office and SAGE?

The fees collected by FOPP are paid to the police, the DA’s office and SAGE. There is no question that if the police and DA are benefiting financially from alleged clients who are arrested that this is an incentive for the numbers of arrests and prosecutions to be maintained and increased. This undermines the independence of the criminal justice system and should be condemned as corruption.

FOPP is presented as an alternative to the criminal justice system. It is not. Women still get arrest records. A criminal record institutionalizes women in prostitution, preventing those who want to get out from getting other jobs. If women default on FOPP they go back to court and may end up in jail.

FOPP claims that its program can impact the issue of the trafficking of women. In fact the opposite is true as criminalizing sex workers and clients makes it harder for anyone to come forward to report violence and exploitation. Figures showing numbers of trafficked women, often put forward by organizations which have a vested interested in promoting trafficking as a burgeoning problem, are wildly exaggerated as no distinction is made between genuine victims and immigrant women working independently in the sex industry.[1] Increasingly people understand that trafficking is not just about prostitution but immigration, women from poorer countries coming to the US to improve their lives and that trafficking is being used primarily to target and deport immigrant people.

Making no distinction between violent men (who may or may not be clients) and non-violent clients is very dangerous. Police and court time and resources should be directed towards the rape and other violence which women report, not wasted on arresting and prosecuting those engaged in consenting sex. All we have heard from people who attend FOPP programs is that it is a crude puritanical mix of moralism, intimidation, and financial and emotional extortion. It is an attempt to shame, embarrass and humiliate using misinformation and myths about prostitute women spreading disease and portraying sex workers as the ultimate victim.

Police decoy operations used to entrap women and men for prostitution offenses who are then referred to FOPP, often take place in predominantly low-income Black and immigrant communities. Concerns have been raised of racist policing and civil rights violations. While some information is available on the racial breakdown of men who go into FOPP, public information is needed on the total number of arrests for prostitution offenses in SF and the racial breakdown of those arrested.

False arrests are occurring because women and clients daren’t risk fighting a prostitution charge by going to court. Even the accusation of being a sex worker or client, especially when people are threatened that this will be reported in the media, let alone the risk of being found guilty (and possible deportation which could result where the “offender” is immigrant), is enough that many feel they have no alternative but to accept the FOPP program.

There is concern that much of the information, data and research done on FOPP is biased since it is done by those who have a vested interest in showing FOPP in a favorable light.

YES on Prop K! No criminalization of sex workers! No profiteering off the illegality of prostitution!

*US PROStitutes Collective is a national network of sex workers and other women campaigning for an end to criminalizing sex workers and for resources so that no woman, man or child is forced into prostitution through poverty. US PROS is part of the International Prostitutes Collective. http://www.prostitutescollective.net
For more information on Yes on Prop K go to yesonpropk.org


Comments  (Hide Comments)

by Kristie Miller
Saturday Nov 1st, 2008 4:23 PM
There are many flaws with San Francisco’s Proposition K. Alarmingly, there is a proven global connection between legalization/decriminalization of prostitution and an INCREASE in sex trafficking. If we are to enter into an intelligent conversation over ideas for any policy change designed to keep women and girls safe, first these connections need to be more thoroughly explored. The outcome could have dire consequences for the advancement of women’s human rights. On one hand, Proposition K could bring the job title of ‘prostitute’ into a legitimate labor category in San Francisco with possibilities of unionization, employer-provided health insurance, and access to disability and unemployment benefits. On the other hand, we could be making our community more susceptible to pimps, traffickers and violent predators while simultaneously creating a group of women and girls that are legally sanctioned to be bought and sold by anyone with the ability or power to do so. Research the connection between prostitution and sex trafficking in Australia, Netherlands, and Germany. Illegal sex trafficking, prostitution of children, and quality of life crimes EXPLODED as a result of their legalization/decriminalization of prostitution. Google ‘connection between prostitution and trafficking’ and you will be provided with a plethora of information. Another dangerous outcome of Proposition K is that it mandates the city to stop supporting FOPP or any similar programs. FOPP is a highly effective restorative justice program that enables social service agencies to provide free services to women and girls who are involved in or at-risk for prostitution. These free services include mental health counseling, addiction treatment, and job-skill training. Proponents of Proposition K like to slander these social service programs by calling them ‘sex-negative’ and ‘shame-based.’ Anyone who has had any direct experiences with these programs will say the exact opposite. Anyone who has had any actual involvement will tell you of the compassion, empowerment, healing and sisterhood that these programs are built on. These programs provide education on healthy-sex, healthy relationships, building self-esteem and most importantly, provide the tools necessary to help women and girls heal from their traumas and develop into the beautiful and powerful women they were always meant to be. Thousands of lives have been transformed as a direct result of these programs. There is absolutely no sound reason why these life-changing services should be denied to ANYONE! Proposition K is being sold to San Francisco voters as an opportunity to grant sex workers equal rights. In actuality, it is a convicted pimp’s personal vendetta against San Francisco and the SAGE Project. Before jumping on anyone’s bandwagon, do a little background research. Proposition K is not the solution to advancing women’s human rights. It sadly would do the exact opposite. There is a reason Gloria Steinem is one of the major opponents against Proposition K. You can learn more at www.noonk.net.
by Forlock
Saturday Nov 1st, 2008 6:24 PM
You do not save women and girls by throwing them in jail, which will only give them a police record and hinder their chances of finding other employment. No job training program will do any good for someone with an arrest record for prostitution. And as the article above points out, FOPP does not provide any real job or career training for anyone forced into the program.

Furthermore, the activists working to decriminalize prostitution in San Francisco are NOT pimps, they are sex workers speaking for themselves.

Vote Yes on Proposition K!



by Maritza
Sunday Nov 2nd, 2008 10:52 AM
so tired of this white libertarian agenda that the supporters of prop k are pushing. It is the same philosophy that wreaked havoc on our economy and now these people want to come in and apply the same principles to social issues! PROP K WILL WREAK HAVOC ON PEOPLE OF COLOR COMMUNITIES. don't believe me? they said it themselves--check out the editorial in the chronicle--the proponents of prop k said "if you live in a place like say, the Inner Mission, things just might get worse." BASTA!

vote no on prop k. gracias
by Forlock
Sunday Nov 2nd, 2008 4:59 PM
The majority of people arrested for prostitution are people of color. Many immigrant women arrested for prostitution are deported. Let's stop this racial profiling and injustice toward sex workers of color.

Vote Yes on Prop K