June 15, 2018

MEDIA CONTACT:

Jessie Sage, Sex Workers Outreach Project | swop.pittsburgh@gmail.com

PITTSBURGH, PA — A coalition of advocates for sex workers and civil rights sent an open letter to Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala on Friday, urging the DA’s office to stop classifying condoms and cell phones in prostitution-related offenses as evidence of criminality.

The letter notes that criminalizing condoms “has a chilling effect on Pittsburghers’ willingness to carry and use condoms, especially those who are most vulnerable to contracting HIV/AIDS and other STIs including women and men of color, LGBTQ people, young people, victims of trafficking, and people in the sex trades.”

“We believe that the police practice of seizing condoms and using them as evidence of prostitution, or to levy more serious instrument-of-crime felony charges in alleged prostitution cases, undermines public health and safety,” said Jessie Sage co-founder of the Pittsburgh chapter of Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP), which has been leading the community response, “We hope to work with the DA and the Pittsburgh Police to educate sex workers about their right to practice safer sex, and to promote health and safety in the community as a whole.”

The letter also points out that, “There is no probable cause to charge an individual suspected of prostitution with the more severe charge of PIC under 18 Pa.C.S. § 907 simply because he or she used a cellular device to facilitate the meeting or carried condoms,” and cites to controlling appellate case law.

The letter urges immediate action from the DA’s office “by announcing Allegheny County will no longer allow condoms as evidence in support of prostitution-related charges, will no longer confiscate contraceptives, and will cease filing PIC charges against defendants who possess condoms and/or phones when they are charged with prostitution.”

You can read the full text of the letter here: https://tinyurl.com/lettertodazappala

Signatories include: Abolitionist Law Center, ACLU of Pennsylvania, CEDAW, Coalition Against Death by Incarceration – West, Elsinore Bennu, Fair Moans Collective, New Voices for Reproductive Justice, Open Door, Persad Center, Pittsburgh DSA, Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania, Prevention Point Pittsburgh, Queer Pittsburgh, Sex Worker Outreach Project (SWOP) Pittsburgh, Sisters Pittsburgh, TransPride Pittsburgh, Unitarian Universalists Advocacy Network (UUPLAN), University of Pittsburgh Center for Women’s Health Research and Innovation, Women’s Law Project