Blogger Note: Great reporting, Sonja! We who live/d it appreciate VICE’s continued coverage on sex work.
VICE Article: Advocates say vice squads around the country are still targeting sex workers despite an infusion of federal cash and hyped plans to stamp out trafficking. The courts may be backlogged and the subways hopelessly delayed, but when it comes to rounding up sex workers, America’s largest city is nothing if not efficient.
“This is something they do a lot—they’ll book a hotel, and you see the same room number on all the complaints,” Legal Aid attorney Catherine Carbonaro explained as she read from a stack of files on a recent prostitution sting in New York City. “They corral everyone in a room like they’re animals, and when they have enough people, they decide the night’s over.”
That’s hardly the promising picture police commissioner James O’Neill and the city’s first lady, Chirlane McCray, painted back in February when announcing the NYPD would bolster the size of its vice squad in order to stamp out sex trafficking. The hope on part of some advocates was that sex workers might see relief from the pressure traditionally brought to bear by police. But a growing number of law enforcement agencies, from Philly to LA, are forming their own anti-trafficking units—often using grants from the feds—and deploying similarly gallant rhetoric despite limited evidence their arrests do much to stop exploitation.
“There is this false idea that the only way to reach people who are exploited in the sex industry is to arrest them,” sex worker rights advocate Kate D’Adamo told me. “You are abusing sex workers in service to failing trafficking victims.”
Whether or not they support the decriminalization of prostitution, which D’Adamo does, most trafficking experts agree that arresting exploited people harms them more than it helps. Not only can it traumatize them, but the practice saddles people with criminal charges and can even set them up for courtroom deportation. But alternatives are time-consuming and remain opaque to most law enforcement agencies, which have been deputized to fight human trafficking in part because it’s widely understood to be synonymous with illegal sex work—something America’s cops have been policing pretty much forever. Modernizing their approach is still a work in progress, to say the least.
Read the entire article: The War on Human Trafficking Looks a Lot Like the War on Sex Work – VICE