Unnecessary laws are not good laws, but traps for money. – Thomas Hobbes
Yesterday I mentioned the rash of prostitution prosecutions in Surrey, England, which appear to be motivated by a desire to rob the victims of those prosecutions. Kelly Michaels and I discussed this sort of strategy on her Nymphtalk Live show last week (among many other things) and I mentioned that it’s also the strategy apparently favored by Las Vegas: Arrest, fine, release, repeat. Q: What do you call a useless man who extorts money from prostitutes? A: A cop. But as we discussed, other jurisdictions do things in exactly the opposite way; I shudder to think how much the NOPD’s little escapade the night I was arrested, or the typical shenanigans of cops in Pennsylvania, or the vast operations organized by the FBI to pop streetwalkers, cost the taxpayers in their jurisdictions (which in the case of the FBI means the whole USA). But those can’t compare to the massive waste perpetrated by the State of Texas, as detailed in this paraphrase of a January 27th news article recently commented on by Brandy Devereaux on January 29th and Laura Agustín on February 1st:
Every year, millions of tax dollars in Texas are spent on prostitutes. The money goes for housing hundreds of them in Texas prisons and Harris County jails. Texas has tougher laws for prostitution than most states, which can mean prostitutes who are arrested more than twice can be charged as felons; that qualifies them for prison, where it costs about $50 a day each to care for them. In Harris County (where Houston lies) there are about 130 prostitutes at any given time, costing the taxpayers about $2.3 million a year, and the state prison system currently confines over 300 female prostitutes at a total estimated cost of nearly $8 million a year.
This vastly understates the problem by only mentioning Texas’ most populous county; the state has 253 counties other than Harris, and if each jails whores at a similar per capita rate there are 673 women locked up in other Texas county jails at any given time for a staggering grand total of $22.6 million per year ($2.3 million for Harris + $12.3 million for other counties + $8 million for state prisons).
“Three or more prostitution convictions, we’ll send you to prison five or 10 years. No other state even thinks about that,” said State Sen. John Whitmire, a Houston Democrat who chairs the Senate Criminal Justice Committee. Texas is one of only seven states [this is incorrect – it’s actually ten – Maggie] where prostitutes can even be sentenced to prison at all, the others being Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, [Indiana, Louisiana], Michigan, [South Carolina and Vermont].
I’m not sure what to make of this sloppy reporting; the article says seven states classify repeat prostitution convictions as a felony, then lists only six! The actual number is ten and I’ve added the missing ones in brackets.
Probation officers and court employees said drugs are the common denominator when they work with prostitutes. “The ladies are in prostitution to support their drug habit,” said Bernadine Gatling, with Harris County Community Supervision. But there’s now a new way to prosecute prostitutes; it’s called the STAR court (Success Through Addiction Recovery). The court was launched in 2003 to exclusively handle addicts, male and female, getting them into treatment — not jail – in the hope they wouldn’t come back. Of the women who began showing up in front of the STAR court judges, one thing stood out: the majority of them were, or had been, prostitutes. But now, instead of being sent back to jail, they’re getting drug treatment — closely supervised by a judge, to whom they have to report weekly.
My, what a mass of fallacies! Just because a statement is true does not mean its converse is as well; “all beagles are dogs” does not automatically imply “all dogs are beagles”, and “most arrested addicts in Houston are prostitutes” certainly doesn’t imply “most Houston prostitutes are addicts”. I don’t expect reporters who can’t count to seven to understand a principle of formal logic, but considering that Texas isn’t exactly shy with escort stings the cops certainly know that most escorts aren’t druggies even if most arrested Houston streetwalkers are. Perhaps, since most escorts can afford lawyers, the only hookers these “probation officers and court employees” ever deal with are destitute addicts and they judge all of us by that narrow slice of the whore spectrum. But then again, maybe not:
The court staff who runs the program said it doesn’t work for everyone, but it sure beats just sending them to jail over and over and at a fraction of the cost. Currently, the program can help only a fraction of the women prosecuted in Harris County for prostitution.
Why do you think that is? Hmm, maybe because the only whores eligible for the program are drug-addicted subsistence-level ones, who are only a fraction of all women prosecuted for prostitution. I’m not knocking the program; I’m in favor of anything which lessens the number of working girls locked up in jails. What offends me is the hypocrisy of trumpeting this small, specialized program as some sort of solution instead of simply changing the prostitution laws in Texas so they can no longer be used to persecute women for trying to earn a living, and then presenting the citizens of Texas with the bill for the cops’ and prosecutors’ sadistic sex games. Places like Texas and Pennsylvania waste tremendous amounts of money to victimize us, and places like Nevada and Surrey conspire to rob us, but in both cases we are the ones on the receiving end of the attack; no matter which direction the cash flows, whores are the ones who suffer.