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  1. LC
    LC November 14, 2011 at 10:04 am |

    I remember when this started, and somehow had convinced myself it was so stupid it had been dropped almost immediately.

    Here’s hoping it passes.

  2. Nia
    Nia November 14, 2011 at 10:35 am |

    It hasn’t. And it’s not just New York City that does it either – my city’s done it for as long as I can remember.

    It is a slap in the face. I actually work both sides of the “client” “provider” divide – I’m a sex worker, and also do intravenous drug use outreach, and the cops not only use condoms as evidence, but take the syringes we pass out and break them. Why. WHY.

    So, good article. Thought, tho… why is this sentence relevant to the article?

    Sheila was seeking counseling from the Sex Workers Project to help her make a career change, but had no financial support and was still working in the sex industry.

    I mean, awesome for Sheila, figuring out what she wants to do with her life and what she doesn’t want to do, but the condom arrests unjustly affect everyone, including sex workers who are not seeking to exit the industry. Not sure what your intentions were, but we don’t need to justify our complaints about injustice by making sure everyone knows we are “trying to get out of this.” Kind of like I don’t need to justify being a stripper by saying “don’t worry, I’m just doing this to pay for law school.” I can just do it, and that’s an okay choice too, and I still shouldn’t be arrested for possession of a condom.

  3. Sandy
    Sandy November 14, 2011 at 11:52 am |

    Nia: why is this sentence relevant to the article?

    The only thing I can possibly think of is that this sentence contextualizes her situation a bit, making it clear that the part of the article that talks about the dire and ongoing consequences of an arrest (when and/or if a sex worker wants to get a mainstream job) applies to her.

    But I totally get what you’re saying, and if that wasn’t the idea behind that sentence, then I agree.

  4. Tim
    Tim November 14, 2011 at 1:55 pm |

    This was another one of those “I don’t even …” things for me because I had never heard of this. I’m just wondering, are they using possession of condoms as the only evidence of prostitution and getting convictions that way? Don’t get me wrong; I don’t think sex workers should be getting arrested and charged with crimes, but at the vary least if prostitution is against the law, then they should only be convicted with actual proof that they engaged in prostitution. What is wrong with juries, anyway? Or is the pressure so intimidating that it’s better for people to plead guilty?

  5. wl
    wl November 14, 2011 at 4:15 pm |

    Tim – Prostitution arrests don’t usually go to trial. People plead out most of the time.

  6. Brian Schlosser
    Brian Schlosser November 14, 2011 at 4:30 pm |

    Nia: I’m a sex worker, and also do intravenous drug use outreach, and the cops not only use condoms as evidence, but take the syringes we pass out and break them. Why. WHY.

    A little extra-judicial punishment, I imagine. Prostitutes, their clients, and IV drug users don’t DESERVE to be safe, you see.

    See also: The entire anti-abortion yet also anti-contraception wing of the American Right.

  7. What We Missed
    What We Missed November 14, 2011 at 5:00 pm |

    [...] Stop police and District Attorneys from using condoms to convict sex workers. [...]

  8. EG
    EG November 14, 2011 at 8:09 pm |

    Nia: I actually work both sides of the “client” “provider” divide – I’m a sex worker, and also do intravenous drug use outreach, and the cops not only use condoms as evidence, but take the syringes we pass out and break them. Why. WHY.

    Because the actual purpose of our legal system is make sure vulnerable people suffer and the property rights of the rich are protected. Any actual justice that gets done is the result of decent lawyers and advocates working their fingers to the bone in uphill battles against the way the system was made to work, and is purely incidental.

    Oh dear, I’ve become my father. But thank goodness for those lawyers and advocates who have the strength, patience and dedication to gut it out and get that justice done.

  9. Donna L
    Donna L November 14, 2011 at 9:24 pm |

    There are lots of trans women — especially, but by no means exclusively, young trans women of color — who are arrested for the crime of “walking while trans” in particular neighborhoods (often the neighborhoods in which they happen to live), regardless of whether they were actually soliciting anyone, because everybody knows that young trans women all do sex work to pay for “the operation,” right? And if they happen to be carrying any condoms, well, too bad for them.

  10. Brian Schlosser
    Brian Schlosser November 15, 2011 at 12:35 am |

    Donna L: There are lots of trans women — especially, but by no means exclusively, young trans women of color — who are arrested for the crime of “walking while trans” in particular neighborhoods

    I was not aware of this until this article, and it really, really sickens me.

  11. Wendy
    Wendy November 15, 2011 at 1:41 am |

    Nia: And it’s not just New York City that does it either – my city’s done it for as long as I can remember.

    When I was doing my Master’s research in this area, I found reference to condoms-as-evidence practice in New York, DC, England, South Australia, Ghana, South Africa and pre-decriminalisation New Zealand. At that point I decided I had enough examples and stopped collecting them – I’m sure there are more.

    It even happens where selling sex isn’t illegal. In Finland, which bars entry of non-EU sex workers, condoms are treated as evidence of intent to engage in sex work. In Sweden, condoms are confiscated for use as evidence against the client.

    And that’s not even getting into the number of countries that discourage efforts to actively promote condom use among sex workers and their clients, because they think it “encourages prostitution”.

    It’s really shocking how widespread such self-evidently dangerous policies are.

  12. macimay
    macimay November 15, 2011 at 2:58 am |

    fyi-New York legislators have introduced this bill for many many years in a row from what I understand from speaking to their legislators last year about this same bill.

    The reality is that if this type of bill passes it won’t stop the police from taking our condoms and a) throwing them on the ground before they arrest us and take us to jail, b) throwing our condoms in the trash at the jail, c) arresting us for loitering or something else besides prostitution upon which our condoms will be confiscated and end up who knows where.

    Or even if the condoms end up with our clothes and other possessions of which we get back when we get out of jail, I wouldn’t use condoms that have been out of my control and in the control of the police for my own health and safety.

    As someone who has been arrested for prostitution many times and has been through the court system I believe they’ll still be taken away from us…And I disagree that activism towards this end is the best use of time, but then again, the agency sex work project, that is supporting this legislation, are using paid staff to do. Go for it!

    Or is it the lazy sex worker activism in play here?

    On a political level this route is not good for us because its not decrim and any prostitute will tell you that health and safety are not her primary concern. Getting arrested and suffering the hell of having a case and all the negative stigma for the rest of your life is a life sentence with the prostitution arrest. Just look at the amount of providers offering GFE, exchanging body fluids….I’d say catching something isn’t that big of a concern.

    Additionally, the condom thing is leverage. Its leverage used in the court of public opinion. Just look at how quick you all are hoping to. It makes no sense to give away this leverage.

    This kind of legislation misdirects our volunteer time towards an outcome that’ll just make the politicos look good, like they did something for us when really they haven’t. This type of effort falls short.

    Keep your eyes on the prize.

  13. Ceres
    Ceres November 15, 2011 at 8:32 am |

    I saw a TED Talk once about how drug addicts act rational when they share needles. The police would check for use of needles in rounding up drug users, so then having a needle with you could get you in jail, where you were sure to get HIV or something. So it was better to just take a chance with the needle of a friend to prevent arrest.

    I imagine it can be quite hard for low-paid sex workers to refuse men who don’t have condoms with them, or perhaps it will be easy to refuse them, in which case they lost a client. In general, it’s making it a more risky business for them.

  14. Ang
    Ang November 15, 2011 at 1:15 pm |

    Eep, as a transwoman with no ties to any sex work, who happens to always carry condoms as a matter of practice (not only for my own use but to help out friends if they find themselves short), this makes me worry about traveling to NYC :(

  15. wl
    wl November 15, 2011 at 2:11 pm |

    It’s not just NYC. This happens across the world. Definitely it happens in D.C. and San Francisco, and probably in most other cities in the U.S.

  16. smash
    smash November 15, 2011 at 5:02 pm |

    Thanks for this important article, Crystal DeBoise. The cops in NY shouldn’t be arresting sex workers; they should be going after the johns! I’m really sad to see women become targets simply for trying to protect themselves.

  17. The Week in Links: November 18 | Tits and Sass

    [...] new bill in New York State would prevent possession of condoms from being used as evidence for prostitution [...]

  18. Nia
    Nia November 19, 2011 at 1:37 pm |

    The cops in NY shouldn’t be arresting sex workers; they should be going after the johns!

    No. Sex work should be legalized. That is what will protect sex workers lives. That is what sex workers rights organizations the world over have been asking for.

  19. some dude
    some dude November 20, 2011 at 1:23 pm |

    Being that the author seems to be kinda liberal, I find it odd that the author never pointed out how attacking the government using condoms as evidence of a crime *that shouldn’t be a crime ethically* is attacking the branches of evil and not the root of it.

  20. Sunday Scan | This Might Be True
    Sunday Scan | This Might Be True November 20, 2011 at 5:28 pm |

    [...] Stopping Police and DAs from Using Condoms to Convict Sex Workers [...]

  21. EG
    EG November 20, 2011 at 11:01 pm |

    some dude: I find it odd that the author never pointed out how attacking the government using condoms as evidence of a crime *that shouldn’t be a crime ethically* is attacking the branches of evil and not the root of it.

    I don’t see any conflict there. Sometimes you do one, sometimes you do the other, depending on what seems most effective/necessary at the moment. I don’t think marijuana should be illegal, but I’d sure as hell support a move to prevent the possession of rolling papers, a perfectly legal product sold legally, being used as evidence of marijuana possession (this is an imaginary example; I have no idea whether or not it could actually happen). Anti-abortion advocates have gotten pretty far with the incremental chipping-away approach.

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