SWOP Behind Bars | Community for Incarcerated Sex Workers

(Prostitutes) In Prison: Latesha Clay
SB Field Crew: Bella Robinson COYOTEri & M. Dante ESPU Philly

WE CARE ABOUT THE FATE OF OUR NATION’S CHILD-VICTIMS: At SWOP Behind Bars (SBB) we know these are not easy situations to understand and to determine the right and wrong of — ” offers M. Dante, who believes: “Protecting our youth from punitive abuse is as essential as protecting them from predators.

 

LATESHA RELEASED! 

 

JANUARY 2017: Yasmin Vafa, Executive Director of Rights4girls, a Washington, D.C. based nonprofit dedicated to ending gender based violence against vulnerable young girls, worked with Michigan State Defenders Appellate Office, and related state advocacy efforts,  to see the release of the exploited teen mother from adult prison. Congratulations on  the good work, Yasmin! Your dedication is an inspiration to us all. Link to: Rights 4 Girls

NOT FAMILIAR WITH THE LATESHA CLAY CASE? Read the backstory:  “Who’s The Victim? The Tragedy of the Latesha Clay Case” by Katya M for Tits & Sass. Latesha Clay was used by two older teenagers, Trayvin Donnell Lewis, 18, and Monee Duepre Atkinson, 17, to lure men to their motel room. Both Lewis and Atkinson await criminal convictions, and like Clay, have both been charged as adults, though legally only Lewis is no longer a minor. Charging Black children as adults for crimes less severe than their white juvenile counterparts have committed is nothing new, but it is especially disheartening in the case of Clay, who, at 15, is a long ways off from adulthood. Mlive, the website that initially ran her story, asserts that a man came to a hotel room expecting to have sex with a teenager. Upon arrival, he was greeted by Clay, who took the agreed upon payment and stepped aside. Lewis allegedly then came forward brandishing what investigators later said was an Airsoft pistol with the orange tip removed—not even a real firearm. He ordered him to the ground and requested the man’s money and cellphone. The older teens then allegedly forced the “victim” to drive to an ATM and withdraw a mere $300 before taking them back to the hotel. The teens also allegedly cleared the history from the victim’s cell phone. After the man—unharmed except for his pride—called the police, a search of the hotel room turned up the three suspects as well as $650 in cash and the doctored Airsoft gun. Lewis is being charged with possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, even though an Airsoft gun was the only firearm found on premises. All three teenagers were hauled in and interrogated. Something that stands out starkly, in this case, is the police department’s total exoneration of the men who were soliciting sex from a teenager over the internet in the first place. Kent County Undersheriff Michelle LaJoye-Young has gone on record assuring “robbery victims” that the department is not focused on investigating them for solicitation of prostitution, in this case, urging them to come forward.

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DECEMBER 2016: We learned that The judge, in this case, will be reversing her prison sentence. She will be given a probation term of 5 years, with credit for time served. She will be released from prison on that day which will be in January.

MARCH 2016: A teenage girl is in adult prison after trying to rob a man with a toy gun while being pimped out by two teenage boys selling her services to an adult male who was not charged with a crime.

WHY IS THIS CHILD IN ADULT PRISON IN MICHIGAN? Bella at COYOTEri

“Isn’t Safe Harbor supposed to protect exploited youth by offering ongoing rehabilitative support services as opposed to adult sentencing?” M. DANTE  at ESPU-Philly

JANUARY 2016: John Agar for Michigan Live (MLive): GRAND RAPIDS, MI – A 15-year-old girl and mother of two toddlers was sentenced to prison for helping to rob prospective johns who responded to an Internet sex ad. Latesha Clay was sentenced Monday, Jan. 11, to nine years in prison for robbing two men who responded to an ad on Backpage.com. The ad offered sex with a teen.The victims were robbed after they showed up at a room at Motel 6, 4855 28th St. SE.Clay wept during the hearing, with family behind her filling many seats in the gallery.Also charged are Trayvin Donnell Lewis, 18, and Monee Duepre Atkinson, 17. 

JANUARY 30, 2016: Bella Robinson, dedicated sex work and victim activist at  COYOTEri reached out: Latesha Clay #972719 Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility 3201 Bemis Rd Ypsilanti, MI 48197 January 30th 2016 Latesha –  I don’t know if you are a sex worker.  It doesn’t matter if you are or not.  All I know are the “claims” the State made against you in an online article about your sentencing.  I did five years at Lowell Correctional Institute for drug charges.  I got out in June of 2000. I was in my 30’s during my prison sentence.  With that, I just can’t imagine what it would be like doing prison time at age 15.   I do know how painful it was for me to be separated from my daughter, who had just turned 4 when I went to prison, and was almost 9 when I came home.  I want to offer you my friendship, and let you to know my friendship comes with no conditions. You don’t have to explain your arrest, or your life story; unless you want to.  Our community is outraged that the state of Michigan’s “Safe Harbor” laws failed to protect you from a 9 year prison sentence, and we want you to know that there are people who care about you. I run CoyoteRI with no funding, so all I can afford to send you today is a twenty-five dollar money order.  If you want, I could find someone in our community to start a crowdfunder on your behalf. Hopefully this will allow us to keep sending you funds.  If you are allowed books, clothing,  or anything besides money orders, please let us know (be sure to include  your favorite authors and sizes etc.), so we can try to get the things you need to you.I have posted your story in a few “Sex Worker Rights” groups on Facebook in the hope that other sex workers and allies would step up to write you and help support you .Please write back to let me know how you are doing, along with  telling me what I can do to help.I really hope to hear back from you. Your sister in solidarity, Bella.

The prison returned the money order instructing  mail to:
JPAY PO Box 531190 Miami Shores, FL 33153
or:  online to http://www.jpay.com

Contact us for more information or to comment on your experiences with sending necessary money to inmates.

LATESHA CLAY CASE:  CREATING COMMUNITY CONVERSATIONS ON THE JUSTICE FOR VICTIMS OF TRAFFICKING PROTECTION ACT (JVTA) AND STATE BY STATE SAFE HARBOR ACTS: 

WHO IS DEFINED AS A “CHILD” or “YOUTH”?  Also: Latesha was charged as an adult while defined as a child yet the adult male attempting to purchase sex with her was not charged with any crime. WHY WASN’T THE SEX BUYER ALSO CHARGED WITH THE CRIME OF ATTEMPTING TO PURCHASE SEX WITH A FEMALE MINOR ?

Let’s step back to look at the wording of the JVTA, one of the legislative precursors to SAFE HARBOR, and then also look at a Pennsylvania white paper on SAFE HARBOR both for Pa, and for other states:

Definitions In this section— (1)
the term child means a person under the age of 18;

(2)

the term child advocacy center means a center created under subtitle A of the Victims of Child Abuse Act of 1990 (42 U.S.C. 13001 et seq.);

(3)

the term child human trafficking means 1 or more severe forms of trafficking in persons (as defined in section 103 of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (22 U.S.C. 7102)) involving a victim who is a child; and

(4)

the term eligible entity means a State or unit of local government that—

(A)

has significant criminal activity involving child human trafficking;

(B)

has demonstrated cooperation between Federal, State, local, and, where applicable, tribal law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, and social service providers in addressing child human trafficking;

(C)

has developed a workable, multi-­disciplinary plan to combat child human trafficking, including—

(i)

the establishment of a shelter for victims of child human trafficking, through existing or new facilities;

(ii)

the provision of trauma-­informed, gender-responsive rehabilitative care to victims of child human trafficking;

(iii)

the provision of specialized training for law enforcement officers and social service providers for all forms of human trafficking, with a focus on domestic child human trafficking;

(iv)

prevention, deterrence, and prosecution of offenses involving child human trafficking, including soliciting, patronizing, or purchasing human acts with children;

(v)

cooperation or referral agreements with organizations providing outreach or other related services to runaway and homeless youth;

(vi)

law enforcement protocols or procedures to screen all individuals arrested for prostitution, whether adult or child, for victimization by sex trafficking and by other crimes, such as sexual assault and domestic violence; and

(vii)

cooperation or referral agreements with State child welfare agencies and child advocacy centers; and

(D)

provides an assurance that, under the plan under subparagraph (C), a victim of child human trafficking shall not be required to collaborate with law enforcement officers to have access to any shelter or services provided with a grant under this section.

Summary:  The national trend among state legislators, policy advocates, and service providers is moving toward a victim-centered approach that does not treat commercially sexually exploited youth as criminals. Many themes and approaches have emerged that incorporate the most contemporary responses to victims of human trafficking. • The number of states with Safe Harbor legislation continues to grow each year. Beginning in 2010 with New York, every passing year sees an increase in the number of states that are developing Safe Harbor laws for victims of human trafficking. Although the provisions and protections for victims vary from state to state, 34 states to date have developed a legislative response to the commercial sexual exploitation of children. • Safe Harbor legislation complies with federal guidelines for combatting human trafficking. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 and The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015 encourages states to treat minor victims of trafficking as victims and to expand services while discouraging the prosecution of victims. • Treating minor victims of commercial sexual exploitation as criminals violates the child’s human rights. Recognition of these children as victims and not criminals is viewed by human rights scholars as the best approach to responding to victims of human trafficking. Detainment against their will, even with the goal of protection from further abuse, replicates the control and stigma experienced during trafficking. • Victim services are more effective when they are voluntary and trauma-informed. Empowering victims to choose to participate in treatment is essential for therapeutic services to be effective. Victims of sex trafficking have been disempowered, having lost control of the essence of their being, and empowering them to have choices is the first part in the healing process. When victims are forced to participate in services or incarcerated, the ability of the service provider to gain the trust of the victim is undermined. Trauma-informed services are regarded as the most effective in addressing victimization without causing additional trauma. The Field Center For Children’s Policy, Practice & Research University of Pennsylvania 15 • Victims are more likely to cooperate with prosecution of traffickers when they are not treated as criminals. A voluntary, victim-centered approach leads to better compliance with prosecution of the traffickers. Victims may be afraid or unwilling to cooperate with law enforcement, and are unlikely to cooperate simply because of the threat of prosecution against them. A trusting relationship with victims, supported by professionals who are trained in trauma-informed practice, increases the chances of cooperation and likelihood of victims seeking help in the future. • The child welfare system is already designed to provide services to victims of abuse or neglect. This system is not punitive in nature and does not leave youth with a criminal record. Additional services may be developed within this system to meet the specific needs of this population. • The juvenile justice system is not effective at providing treatment and rehabilitation. Youth who are prosecuted and convicted of prostitution or related crimes may be removed from their trafficker while incarcerated, but the long term life outcomes and chance of successful reintegration into society for youth in the juvenile justice system are poor and recidivism rates are high. Recommendations for Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania has the opportunity to utilize the growing body of information in this area to develop an effective and sound Safe Harbor law. Comprehensive legislation in this area will best protect and assist Pennsylvania’s juvenile victims of human trafficking. 1. Pennsylvania should enact a Safe Harbor law that provides immunity from prosecution from prostitution and related crimes, and provide referrals to voluntary, victim-centered services, enabling the Commonwealth to be a national leader with model legislation based on research and lessons learned from across the country. 2. The Safe Harbor implementation timeline from the date of passage should be a minimum of six months, giving enough time for adequate options for intervention, treatment, and protection through the child welfare system to be developed. 3. Safe Harbor Laws should protect all children up to age 18 from prosecution for prostitution or related crimes. 4. Pennsylvania should develop an evaluation and data collection plan on the implementation and impact of Safe Harbor, including longitudinal studies on the outcomes for victims of human trafficking. The Field Center For Children’s Policy, Practice & Research University of Pennsylvania 16 5. Additional trafficking-specific programs should be developed in the child welfare system if necessary so that child victims of human trafficking in Pennsylvania receive services through the child welfare system and not the juvenile justice system. 6. Pennsylvania should utilize and enhance existing networks of services for victims of child abuse, including child advocacy centers, county child welfare agencies, therapeutic foster homes, shelters, safe houses, or other residential programming to provide voluntary, trauma-specific services for victims of commercial sexual exploitation. 7. First responders and individuals working with youth who may have experienced trafficking should be trained in trauma-informed practices, approach youth as victims, and be informed about Pennsylvania’s legal statutes and rationale. 8. Pennsylvania should apply for federal grant funding, contingent upon the assurance that victims are not required to collaborate with law enforcement to have access to residential care or services, to develop and expand interventions and services.

 

BUT ARE THE JVTA AND SAFE HARBOR FAILING OUR COMMUNITIES, AND HURTING OUR YOUTH?

 

Dangers Of Safe Harbor Laws:  It is 1904. Thirteen year-old Mary N., an African American girl, stands accused of prostitution. Judge Tuthill, the first judge of the nation’s inaugural juvenile court, sentences Mary to the custody of the State Industrial School for Delinquent Girls at Geneva, Illinois to be “rehabilitated.”  There, Mary begins several, long years packed in beside hundreds of other working-class and poor girls of largely Catholic and African descent toiling over the domestic arts as a result of their adjudged immorality. Once the School’s matrons subject Mary and the other inmates to pelvic exams to verify their purity, Superintendent Ophelia Amigh applies whips, leather handcuffs, water torture, and solitary confinement to drive her wards along the path to proper femininity. If Amigh had the final word, the School would adopt sterilization as a remedy to what Amigh referred to as a root concern of “race and color.”

Dangers Of Safe Harbor Laws: Proponents of [current 2015, 2016, 2017] safe harbor laws praise the New York law as a “watershed moment” in what they call the “fight against the commercial sexual exploitation of children.” Nationally, the language is increasingly militaristic, with safe harbor laws regularly characterized as instrumental in combatting the “criminal slave trade.” In this way, the policy justification for safe harbor laws is remarkably similar to Amigh’s statement a century earlier that a law enforcement-based response is necessary to “checkmating the work of the white slavers.”At first glance, the Assembly bill memorandum attached to the Safe Harbor Act presents more restrained language, explaining that the purpose of the Act is to “provide support and services to youth who are victims of sexual exploitation.”

In Loco Aequitatis: Dangers of “Safe Harbor ” Laws for Youth in the Sex Trades
Thank you to The ESLPER Project for the above link to Brendan M. Conner’s April 2016 Publication

 Who is advocating for the rights of our victimized youth caught in crimes related to the conflation of poverty, prostitution, and proposed human trafficking “remedies”?

OCTOBER 2016

SWOP-USA Scarlet Letter 10/2016: Latesha Clay Appeal. Latesha has been given an appeal date – October 7th, 2016! LaTesha is a 16 year old woman who, at the age of 15, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for playing a minor role in the robbery of men who were, for all intensive purposes, committing a federal felony in trying to pay to have sex with her, a minor. For more information, click here! Appeal Date Set!!

OCTOBER 3, 2016

Judge Quist c/o M. Strickland
P.O. Box 9627 Wyoming, MI 49509
re: October 7th LaTesha Clay Appeal

Dear Honorable Quist –

It is my hope that with this appeal, you will recognize that – though LaTesha participated in an obvious and regrettable crime – she is also a victim, and as a youth is deserving of Safe Harbor to assist her in reclaiming her potential as an active member of her community. My additional concern please is: why wasn’t the adult man – who attempted to purchase LaTesha for the purpose of engaging in a commercial sex act with a female under the age of 18  – charged and convicted of the crime of participating in domestic minor sex trafficking?  It seems in this situation everyone involved did something deserving of justice based intervention, yet the person purchasing the service has – as far as I know –  been protected from prosecution and public identification in the media.  This does not seem consistent with the intention of the new codes and legislation. I hope for LaTesha and her family she is allowed the opportunity to move forward from this situation. A child blossoming into adulthood institutionalized is a loss if rehabilitation and reentry is a possibility. Ongoing, compassionate support services should be made available to her and her family to see if a better, brighter example can be set than prison.  – M. Dante
AUGUST 2016 A national effort to understand the situation, and assist Latesha’s family. 

Survivors Consultation Network AUG 25, 2016 — Hello supporters!! We are so excited to announce that LaTesha has been given an appeal date! October 7th, 2016. We are asking that you all draft letters of support for LaTesha and address them directly to the Judge. He needs to view her as a victim. The men who tried to buy her need to be prosecuted, and the adults who placed her on backpage need to be held accountable.You may draft your letters to : Judge Quist.You can mail them to the following address: Judge Quist c/o M. Strickland P.O. Box 9627 Wyoming, MI 49509

If you are more of an electronic person please email your letters, including your full name:  survivorsconsultationnetwork@gmail.com Subject: LaTesha Clay We will them forward all letters for appropriate handling. Thank you so much for all of your support. We would love you to keep sharing this petition, and getting as many signatures as possible. FOR FREEDOM, Survivors Consultation Network.

THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO ASSISTED ON THIS PROJECT

SWOP-USA
THE NEW SWOP-USA

 

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