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Posts Tagged ‘SWOP Behind Bars’

The work you do does not give you dignity; the dignity comes from you.  –  Elena Reynaga

Counterfeit Comfort

The Notorious Badge

An unusual portrayal of sex work in cinema:

…the 1918 silent film The Yellow Ticket…follows Lea, a young Jewish woman who lives in the Warsaw Ghetto.  Hoping to study medicine at a university in St. Petersburg, Lea is forced to register as a sex worker, receiving a “yellow ticket” as proof of her status as a prostitute, or else she will go to prison for being Jewish.  Posing as the deceased Christian sister of her former tutor, Lea reluctantly lives these dual lives until a classmate discovers her at the brothel and she tries to commit suicide…

Broken Record 

Low-population areas come up with the most ludicrous concepts for supposed “gypsy whore” magnets:

Fargo [North Dakota] police arrested two men as part of a two-day sting…[during] the annual Big Iron Farm Show…[spokesow Junell] Krabbenhoft [oinked that]…“Any major event, anything that’s going to draw people to the area,” could attract potential buyers…

An Example to the West (#316) 

The areas Americans dismiss as the “third world” are far ahead of the US in sex worker rights:

…sex workers [are] campaign[ing] for an International Labour Organization (ILO) resolution establishing the right to self-employed sex work, with a view to it being included in the individual legislations of Latin American countries, given that, although sex work is not explicitly penalised in many countries of the region, it is criminalised in many ways…they managed, after five years of failed attempts, to secure a thematic hearing at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).  The demands presented included the recognition of sex work, that the relevant authorities in each state intervene to end the impunity surrounding crimes against sex workers, and measures to tackle the institutional violence they suffer…The IACHR…“urged member states to design public policies and regulations that protect the human rights of sex workers…and…put an end to the stigmatisation and discrimination to which they are subjected”…

Traffic Circle (#431)

It’s so nice to see an article in which migrant African sex workers are treated as adults with agency rather than passive, childlike “victims”:

Bar girls and sex workers have a visible presence in Pattaya [Thailand].  Women and girls from neighbouring countries like Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar have made up a large slice of the sex worker demographic for as long as people can recall…Among the most recent round of newcomers are some women from Africa…Last week Pattaya City police arrested 12 women from Uganda…A Cambodian sex worker…[said] she came to the city to earn a living five years ago.  Pattaya improved her life, she says, and she wants to remain there for as long as possible…”Back at home, I can’t even earn 10% of what I am earning here.  I notice a lot more black girls these days but none of us get intimidated by this.  After all, we also came here to find an opportunity to make a better living”…

SWOP Behind Bars

A good article with a horrible headline: sex work is work, not an “offense”:

SWOP Behind Bars…provides a community and concrete aid [to incarcerated sex workers] when they’re released, from clothing and shoes to stamped envelopes, notebooks and hygiene products.  In a new program, the women also get cellphones…Connecting women to resources quickly after leaving prison is crucial.  “When you’re in prison and you get out and you don’t have any money, you’re almost forced back into sex work.  Which may not be where these women want to be, because it does put them at risk for rearrest,” [SBB founder Alex] Andrews said.  She calls this “state-sponsored trafficking”.  Women are cut off from their families and released without resources for finding jobs, getting an education or pursuing a GED.  Sex work is effectively the only way many of them have to make money…Finding cheap, reliable phone service nationwide has been tricky, Andrews says.  Many services aren’t set up to allow people to purchase phones for others, and she’d like to buy 90 days of service at a time, rather than the usual 30-day package.  Most women coming out of prison aren’t in a position to start paying for their own phone after only a month on the outside.  For the moment, Andrews has settled on Straight Talk, a program that’s offered through Wal-Mart and gets good service even in rural areas.  SWOP can send out refurbished iPhone 5S with 30 days of service for around $100 each.  The organization is accepting donations of used smart phones to help expand the program and lower costs…

To Molest and Rape 

“Former prison transport officer” = “pig who was actively employed when he raped women at gunpoint”:

A federal grand jury…returned a two-count indictment against Eric Scott Kindley…for crimes related to his sexual assault of a woman in his custody, and using his firearm in furtherance of the assault…Kindley was indicted on June 29, 2017, in Phoenix, Arizona, for committing similar offenses related to sexual assaults he committed on a different woman in his custody…These indictments stem from Kindley’s arrest in Stockton, California, on June 1, 2017…Kindley operated Group 6, LLC doing business as Special Operations Group, a company that local jails throughout the country hire to transport individuals who have been arrested on out-of-state warrants…In each instance, the victim was handcuffed and restrained, and taken to secluded locations where Kindley [raped] her…Kindley threatened each victim with his firearm and warned her that…no one will believe her…

Send In the Clowns 

This year’s “creepy clown” panic is off to a good start:

An Ohio man who tried to discipline his 6-year-old daughter by chasing her around in a clown mask has been charged after she ran screaming to a stranger’s apartment…Vernon Barrett Jr. donned a clown mask and began chasing his young daughter outside their apartment…the frightened child ran to a female stranger’s car nearby, jumped inside and said she was being chased by a clown…That woman later told police that the man wearing the clown mask pulled the child out of her car.  Unsure of what was happening, the woman called 911…the child [then] ran into the adjacent apartment of…Dion Santiago…[who] grabbed his firearm and fired a shot out of his window…

The Mote and the Beam (#748)

Liz Brown exposes more horrific laws that destroy civil rights under the pretext of “fighting sex trafficking”:

…two significant expansions of federal power…passed the Senate unanimously…Under these new measures, the FBI and immigration agents as well as state and local police can secretly wiretap suspected sex workers, or those who associate with them.  The wiretapping authority…includ[es] consenting adults on any side of a commercial sexual exchange.  The bills call for a new national strategy to reduce “demand” for prostitution, order all U.S. attorneys offices be trained on treating the sex trade as “a form of gender-based violence”…[ban] federal funds [from] any nonprofit that helps people who profit off sex and…broaden…the term “criminal street gang” [to] capture any five or more sex workers traveling together…[the bills provide] a pretext for ICE and Homeland Security Investigations to join in small-town prostitution stings and massage-parlor raids across America…[another] bill (S.1312) gives the attorney general power to file a civil suit against anyone suspected of…planning to commit “any action that constitutes or will constitute” a violation of various federal statutes…This…could allow the feds to preemptively shut down websites, search engines, social apps, browsers, encryption services, or brick-and-mortar businesses because criminals (broadly defined) might communicate there…The new TVPA will also make fighting…”sextortion”…an invitation for the federal government to get involved in teen sexting cases…

The Widening Gyre (#763) 

I am so enjoying watching “authorities” forced to deny the “sex trafficking” propaganda they helped spread:

Looks like the Roseville, California, police department got a little fed up with social media posts going on about local “sex trafficking kidnappers” and “suspicious people.”  And so it came out with this amazing document on its Facebook page…”kidnapping by strangers is a rare crime in the United States.  Stranger abductions of children are so frightening and so unusual that when they do happen, they make national news…children taken by strangers or slight acquaintances represent only one-hundredth of 1 percent (.01%) of all missing children…The Roseville Police Department has never taken a report of anyone being kidnapped by a stranger and forced into the sex trade…We…found no evidence that human traffickers were [at shopping malls] recruiting strangers“…

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Julie Bindel, the well-known British “feminist” and prohibitionist, likes to call herself a journalist; however, I can think of a few more apt labels:  Huckster.  Charlatan.  Fruitcake.  And most of all, lazy twit who can’t even keep track of her own lies.  She’s been hawking a new book for a while now, but despite the help of a major UK newspaper giving her plenty of free column-inches in which to vomit out her regurgitated feces, it looks as though it’s going to flop in a big way.  And though I lack the intellectual endurance to even scan her overpriced doorstop, fortunately my friend Brooke Magnanti has far more critical wherewithall than I do, and was happy to volunteer this synopsis so none of y’all have to bother touching it, either.

This week Julie Bindel releases a new text which I have been privileged to see an advance copy of.  Unlike her previous efforts it’s aimed more at a scholarly market than a popular one, with aspirations to be a summary of investigations into sex workers’ organizations.  The newspaper coverage in Britain has been unescapable in the run-up to its release, with Bindel herself penning vicious invectives against sex workers in all the major papers.  Bindel initially crowdfunded the book to the tune of £7000.  Backers could pay £250 for the honor of having lunch with the woman herself (ironic when criminalized sex workers are also often forced to advertise their services as “lunch dates”).  On top of this, the book had an advance from Palgrave, so the punters end up paying twice.  The title, The Pimping of Prostitution, is ironic given anti-sex work crusades demonstrably attract and spend far more money than shoestring operations like rights orgs do; it is offered at an eye-watering $39.99 for the paperback (and an unbelievable $37.99 for the Kindle edition).  But while supporters paid a premium for the content, does the book deliver?

In a word:  no.  While advertised as a scholarly work it lacks any academic rigor.  Most of the references are self-citations of privately published reviews written by Bindel and Melissa Farley.  Peer review?  What peer review?  A few debunked statistics are trotted out as well.  There is no content of note here, which is unsurprising given Bindel’s most famous quote is that if given a gun and forced to choose between shooting a pimp and an academic, she would shoot the academic.  Bindel claims to have interviewed 250 people in 40 countries about sex work – by her own admission they are journalist friends of hers, police, and “regular members of the public who knew very little, if anything, about the sex trade”.  If this were a middle school project it would be laughed out of class for its utter lack of quality.  She notes in the acknowledgments that “the other side” trusted her to “represent their words and views fairly”.  Is that so?  She has called legalization and decriminalization the same thing when they are not.  Despite being told many times sex workers support decriminalization, not legalization, Julie is too dishonest to admit this, setting up a straw (wo)man and knocking it down over and over.

She states over and over again that there is a “pro-prostitution lobby”.  Who?  She never exactly says and cannot produce any paper trail.  That is for the simple reason that it is she and her friends who are lobbying politicians, setting up All Party Parliamentary Groups stuffed with MPs who want to see more women imprisoned, and paying for events to try to sway lawmakers to their ideology.  The other side, such as it is, is sex workers unpaid for standing up for their rights, and a handful of front-line organizations trying desperately to make sure any sense is heard in the prohibitionist din.  In any case, the claim she interviewed sex work activists is false; she has not so much interviewed her opponents as hand-selected people uninvolved in activism or sex work.  Why are her lengthy conversations with Peter Tatchell about gay men and the age of consent here, if not to stoke pedophilia fears on the back of homophobia?  Why does she place so much importance on tearing down sociologist Dr Catherine Hakim, whose area of research this is not?  How is politician Keith Vaz’s relationship with male escorts related to violence against women?  A few contextless quotes from Conner Habib and Janet Mock are thrown in to prove – well, it’s not clear what, actually.  It’s a mystery:  a bunch of unconnected hit jobs padding out an otherwise shoddy book.  The rest is a collection of personal anecdotes, old feminists she once met, and so on.  She also details the time in the ’70s she was pen-friends with imprisoned sex worker Emma Humphreys, while dodging the question of why the laws she supports would still put women like Emma in jail.

When discussing sex workers condescension drips from every sentence and it is clear she is used to having the floor to herself.  Unable to take criticism or debate (the launch party for her book at “independent intellectual venue” Conway Hall expressly forbade sex work activists), disgusted by the humans she so profitably claims to save.  Her schtick would be funny if it didn’t have real and damaging repercussions on people’s lives.  But the main takeaway from the book is its desperation.  The money she raised appears to have gone towards an all-expenses-paid international jaunt with only the slenderest of results to show for it.  The text reads less like a new movement and more like a last gasp.  If this is Bindel’s final shot at the history books than let it also be the epitaph for her career.  Here lies prohibition: illogical, illiberal, and entirely without merit.

If you want real scholarship about sex work, including hard-hitting debunking of Bindel’s lies (and those of her cronies), please purchase Brooke’s new book Sex, Lies and Statistics (with a foreword by yours truly).  And until Monday evening, Brooke is donating 100% of the profits from ALL preorders globally to SWOP Behind Bars, the nonprofit organization which specializes in helping the women Bindel and her ilk want to keep locking up in cages.

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Did you miss your chance to get one of these awesome parody campaign shirts, to support SWOP Behind Bars?  Are you kicking yourself now that you’re seeing how good they look?  Well, I have great news for you; they’re still available!  If you go to the website on which the shirts are sold and enter your email address, they’ll email you when enough people have expressed interest to justify another run (we think it’s about 30 orders).  So please, please go there and sign up right away!  Not only will you help support activists doing very important work for incarcerated sex workers, you’ll also get one of these snazzy (and extremely comfortable) tees!  The women’s sizes run very small; this is a large, and as you can see it’s pretty tight across my ample bosom (I’m a 34DDD).  So order accordingly!  The men’s sizes are, as far as I’ve heard from guys who got them, pretty standard.  But anyway, don’t delay!  Sign up for yours today, and please Tweet, Facebook & otherwise advertise this campaign far and wide!

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Prohibitionists are fond of claiming that sex worker rights advocates are part of a wealthy, connected and powerful “pimp lobby” from which we draw virtually-unlimited funds; this is not only an outrageous lie, it’s an incredibly hypocritical one.  In truth, prohibitionists receive oceans of funding from governments invested in growing the police state, private corporations who want to look “moral”,  religious groups who want to impose their ideas of morality on everyone, billionaire sociopaths with axes to grind, and well-meaning but ignorant people who believe the “sex trafficking” masturbatory fantasies vomited out by the prohibitionists; advocates for sex workers, on the other hand, are largely self-financed and therefore operating at a loss all the time.  So when we offer products for sale, please understand that you’re not just getting a good book or a fun product, but also helping out those who tirelessly fight for the rights of those whom society has decided do not deserve them.  Here are some things you can currently purchase which will genuinely help some of the most important and powerful voices in our movement:

First, reader Deviant Ollam came up with these clever T-shirts for an imaginary McNeill/Matisse presidential campaign; they’re an excellent conversation starter and 100% of the profits go to o SWOP Behind Bars, which works to help incarcerated sex workers.  If everyone who reads this buys one, just imagine how many women, mostly from very disadvantaged circumstances, will be helped!

Next, Dr. Laura Agustín, author of the blog The Naked Anthropologist and Sex at the Margins, the seminal work on “sex trafficking” hysteria (in which she coined the term “rescue industry”), has written The Three-Headed Dog, a novel dramatizing the problems faced by migrants.  It’s another way of introducing readers to the issues the “sex trafficking” paradigm attempts to paper over, which Dr. Agustín has studied for over 20 years and understands in a way very few others do.

Last but certainly not least, Dr. Brooke Magnanti has re-released her three Belle de Jour books, Secret Diary of a London Call GirlFurther Adventures of a London Call Girl, and London Call Girl:  Playing the Game, in new Kindle editions.  You can buy all three of these blockbuster novels for the cost of a modest meal, and start reading them tonight!  Find out why Brooke became famous, and show some love for a woman who’s done more than almost any other to draw attention to the movement.

Please buy at least one of these, or be a real ally and get them all!  I think I can safely speak for all the ladies I’ve mentioned in today’s column in saying we’re very grateful for your patronage.

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I am an adult, and how I choose to spend my time and money is MY FUCKING BUSINESS.  –  Rick Pettit

Broken Record 

Sex workers on Twitter agreed we couldn’t think of a venue less conducive to selling sex than a state fair:

The New Mexico State Fair draws a huge crowd each year, but Street Safe New Mexico knows it’s not all about fun and games.  “You notice during the state fair, there’s new girls out here, right?” Executive Director Christine Barber said.  “They’re being brought in by the gangs and being forced to work…(The victims are) 15, 16 years old to anything older…I met a lady yesterday who was 47.”  The group says the victims’ pimps like to use the state fair as a hunting ground for willing johns…”Forty-two percent of them are beaten every single day by their pimps or their sex traffickers”…

Coincidentally, 42% of all “sex trafficking” statistics are made up on the spot, and 100% of them are bullshit.

Original Sin

I could also have filed this one under “Paint By Numbers”, since they “fight trafficking” by just standing around silently:

Since last December, activists have gathered monthly in front of St. André Bessette Parish in Northwest Portland in silent witness to the horror of human trafficking…Called modern slavery, it’s just one of the present attacks on the dignity of human life…Among them are abortion, euthanasia, cloning, the destruction of human embryos, genocide, torture, and the direct and intentional targeting of noncombatants in war or terrorist attacks…

I’m not sure it’s proper to use the term ACTIVist for someone who literally stands around, doing and saying nothing.crystal-edmonds

Monsters 

The body count continues to rise:

Just five days ago I wrote about a Black trans woman named T.T. who was viciously murdered in Chicago…Now, a…Black trans woman [named]  Crystal Edmonds has been shot in the back of the head and murdered in Baltimore.  She’s the 21st trans person that we know of who has been murdered in the United States this year…Police say…they have no suspects and very few leads…[but] reports are saying that people in the neighborhood are complaining about sex workers in their area, which makes me even more worried that this case will not be given the attention it deserves…

Paint By Numbers

“Dumb ‘awareness-raising’ stunts” is going to be the funniest appendix in my history of “sex trafficking” hysteria:

Fifty people in teams of five…[followed] clues through various historic landmarks [in Lexington, Kentucky]…to raise money to help women..caught up in the human trafficking industry.  Participants raised money to support “Un-Shackled By Love Ministries”…the first group of women to join the program will stay for four months where they will receive counseling.  Eventually they will move on to a facility in Lexington the ministry [has not actually opened yet]…

Traffic Circle

Debunking of prohibitionist lies is spreading:

Denise Charlton of the Turn Off the Red Light Campaign…claimed the [new Swedish model] legislation [in Ireland] would protect sex workers by decriminalising them.  Does the bill really do that?  A group called Ugly Mugs, which facilitates information-sharing between sex workers, argues that the claim is false, and brought it to our attention on Twitter.  Claim: The new Sexual Offences Bill would decriminalise sex workers  Verdict: Mostly FALSE

  • The new bill would decriminalise public solicitation by sex workers, but…
  • It would retain the criminalisation of loitering by sex workers, and increase the penalties for it
  • It would retain the effective criminalisation of sex workers, under a provision on brothels, and increase the penalties for it.

Served Cold 

For a change, it only took the mainstream media two years to catch up with me:

…Operation Underground Railroad…was founded by self-proclaimed “Man of God,” former CIA and Homeland Security official Tim Bollard…The organization receives allocated funding…and makes contact with local law enforcement.  An elaborate sting follows…All this is filmed so the [backer]…can watch, in real time and from the comfort of his or her office or home…From the perspective of a victim’s right to privacy, such actions are reprehensible…from a criminal justice perspective, there are even more pressing concerns…Why are police in Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Colombia not arresting child sex traffickers if they are so easy to find?…Why is OUR not…raiding the brothels of Amsterdam or London?…Bollard and his rag-tag team would be arrested on the spot.  And any court in any [developed nation] would not hesitate to throw out a case that rests on the evidence of an OUR-type raid because of the failure to meet even the most basic standards of supervision and accountability.  It’s no surprise that the organization and its fellow travellers limit their activities to countries burdened by dysfunctional criminal justice systems that…in response to pressure from the U.S. government…agree to cooperate…Bollard’s operations say much about the man: they are arrogant, unethical and illegal.

The Last Shall Be First (#624)

Expect a lot more cases like this before potty hysteria is over:

Security attempted to escort a lesbian woman…out of toilets at a music venue after because they thought she was a man.  Mary Looper was at a Carrie Underwood concert with her aunt when security attempted to escort her out of the women’s restroom.  A female security officer stood outside Looper’s stall demanding…proof she was a woman…She took to Facebook to share her dismay…

SWOP Behind Bars

My friend Mistress Matisse has been applying her indomitable (see what I did there?) efforts to support SWOP Behind Bars, most recently by talking about them on Dan Savage’s Savage Love podcast.  Go have a listen!  And if you haven’t yet sent a book to one of the incarcerated sex workers in the program, hie thee thither and do so posthaste!

Sales Pitch (#642) ingeborg-kraus-tampon-collector-simon-haggstrom

Remember the creepy Swedish cop who collects used tampons?  He’s teaming up with a German neofeminist to spread the Gospel of Violent Busybodiness to Canada:

…Ingeborg Kraus, a [prohibitionist who pretends that]…Germany decriminalized the sex industry…[claims that legalization there has] fuelled human trafficking [and lies that literally]…”No German woman will work in those conditions anymore”…[pervert cop Simon Haggstrom pretends that] Sweden…decriminalize[d] the sale of sex…[fantasizes about a] connection between prostitution and organized crime…[and lies that sex workers who demand our rights] are a small minority within the sex industry…

Allied for Change

I truly hope many more clients are inspired to speak out like this:

My name is Rick Pettit, and I am a client of sex workers.  I am in my 60s, divorced, and unattached.  I run my own moderately-unsuccessful service business in a small town in New England.  I’m just an ordinary person…not particularly well-off financially, and certainly not a hub of criminal activity.  I am well-liked by my customers and in my town.  I am NOT a “pervert”…I do NOT abuse the women I spend time with.  Most importantly, I DO NOT “BUY” ANYONE’S BODY. (There’s not enough room in my closet)…

Pimps Ahoy

You can’t keep a bad organization down:

Courage Worldwide said today that after the appeal process…the organization is in good standing with state regulators and plans to rehire and train new staff to reopen Courage House immediately…“We are gratified that the state has…agreed cell phones pose a real danger to the girls in our care since they link these vulnerable children back to the people who trafficked them.  The cell phone is the preferred mechanism of the trafficker to market and sell under-age girls on the internet”…

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SWOP Behind Bars is a new project, which attracted my attention soon after its formation; I think it’s incredibly important so I asked the organizer, Alex, to explain the project herself.  I’ve already donated a copy of my book (and will donate more to other prisons as the project expands), and I’ve given Alex carte blanche to use any of my columns in the newsletter she compiles for our incarcerated sisters.  As a former librarian, I well know the power books have to change lives, yet they’re so inexpensive; please consider donating at least one book to this program, and read on for other ways you can help. 

prison art 955No one really knows how many women who are imprisoned have done some form of sex work, but guesstimates from prison and probation officials run as high as 70%, and it’s difficult to ignore the probability that the criminalization of sex work has a major impact on the prison population.  According to the Florida Department of Corrections almost 6800 women are currently serving a sentence in Florida prisons, and another 38,000 are on state-supervised probation.  Women make up approximately 7% of the Florida prison population, with 144 under the age of 21; black and Hispanic women outnumber white women 3 to 1.  Programs for women behind bars are very limited, inadequately funded and mostly faith based, and re-entry services are pretty much limited to $50 and a bus ticket home, wherever that might be.  While the biggest fear for a sex worker might be arrest, the biggest fear for imprisoned women is what will happen to them when they are released.  These women return to their communities desperate and defined by their experience;  their families are disconnected and they must find their own way to rebuild their lives.  There is virtually no housing for those recently released, and they will be denied almost all public benefits because of their criminal records; they can’t get decent employment and they won’t be able to get a student loan in order to advance their education if they can’t or don’t want to engage in sex work.  When this discrimination is combined with whore stigma and the ever-present shaming of current or former sex workers, those who have been incarcerated have virtually no opportunity to thrive on release.

The SWOP Behind Bars project at Lowell Correctional Institution is working to reach out to sex workers behind bars by donating books to the prison library, sending newsletters to those currently incarcerated and building a nationwide network of sex worker-supported letter writing.  Women in prison who receive regular mail are perceived as “highly valued”, and it is the hope of SWOP Behind Bars to flood our incarcerated sisters with mail.  We are currently working to integrate with other prison book donation organizations to duplicate our efforts nationwide, in the hope that over time we can create a sense of community and support that will help them cope while imprisoned and rebuild their lives once released.

This didn’t happen overnight and it’s not even an original idea.  In the early days of sex work activism, Margo St James sued the state of California to improve programs and services for women in prison.  As the sex worker rights movement grew over the next 20 years and the Amnesty decision support decriminalization thrust sex worker rights into mainstream discourse, we still loudly protested the criminalization of sex work and have worked diligently to minimize the danger of being arrested; however, there are still so many sex workers in prison and they need to know we are here for them.  Many do not identify as sex workers, yet it only takes a cursory investigative search of the Department of Corrections websites to recognize that there is a large incidence of previous convictions for prostitution.  Women in prison do not know about the vibrant sex worker community that is rising up in the US, and we think they should.  Those of us who live in the free world have connected with each other via social media and through the organized efforts of Sex Worker Rights Organizations.  We have shared our experiences and our knowledge with each other on Facebook, Instagram, Tumbr and Twitter.  We have Art Shows and Operas and International Days we recognize together.  We have at last created our own community that – for the most part – has given us all a solidarity that is unprecedented.  We even have our own insignia…the Red Umbrella.  Now we need to get back to our roots and reach out to those behind bars because that is where those who have suffered the most from criminalization reside.

prison art 969Reading books is a popular prison pastime and unless one has somebody sending reading material inside, she is limited to what is in the prison library.  But prison libraries are limited to what was left behind by others, legal books and a flurry of faith based material; our goal is to provide books to improve the lives of prisoners, to provide educational resources, and to help reduce the likelihood of their returning to the prison system.  Our communities fare better when prisoners returning to society have had an opportunity to learn, grow, and mature as individuals, and books can provide inspiration and knowledge for that growth.  We believe that books about sex workers, provided by sex workers, for sex workers, and to sex workers are the greatest way we can invite them to participate in our community and let them tell us how we can improve our efforts to make sure that they have the tools to develop the best version of themselves.  Already the Lowell Correctional Facility for Women has been inundated with books donated by authors and individuals that tell about our history, our stories and our hopes for the future.  The generosity of the sex worker community has been overwhelming.  Each book donated will have a label placed inside that will identify our community and let them know how to reach out to us by phone and by mail.  The SWOP Community Support has been activated with a new flock of enthusiastic volunteers to answer calls.  Our first newsletter will be sent to more than 100 incarcerated recipients in the next few weeks, and we will be asking them to write to us and tell us their stories, and to organize support groups inside.  We will be providing evidence-based material for them to learn more about us and about themselves.  We have been invited to participate in the creation of a program that will launch this summer, in which we’ll have the opportunity to provide trauma informed, sex work positive training to corrections officers and other prison officials in the State of Florida.  We are also working to create re-entry support services that are available to assist those who have recently been released find the resources they need to accomplish the goals they set for themselves.

Our call to the sex worker community is to join us in reaching out to sex workers behind bars.  Here are 10 ways you can help.

  1. If you know someone who is in prison whom we could include in our monthly newsletter, send their mailing information to swopbehindbars@gmail.com.
  2. If you are the AUTHOR or PUBLISHER of a book you would like to donate, instructions are listed here.
  3. If you have your own newsletter or if you want to start writing to sex workers behind bars, we can send you our current list of sex workers.  We are not publishing an online list of incarcerated sex workers until they request us to do so.
  4. If you want to send a book to a specific resident of a jail or prison, you MUST send it using Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble. There are no exceptions to this requirement in any US jail or prison.
  5. If you want to submit a story to the monthly newsletter, please send it to us at newsletter@swopbehindbars.org.
  6. If you want to donate NEW BOOKS to the Lowell Corrections Institution Library, we have a wish list on Amazon.com.
  7. If you want to donate USED BOOKS to the prison library, please send an email to swopbehindbars@gmail.com and we will tell you how this works and send you instructions.
  8. If you want to start your own book donation program in your state prison or county jail, let us know and we will be happy to share our tips and tricks.  We want to keep a record of books that are donated and a list of facilities where they are going so we know how to face future challenges with Books Behind Bars projects.
  9. We are building a toolkit for sex workers to use to reach out to recently arrested sex workers, and we will publish that information on the website and on Facebook and Twitter when it is complete.
  10. Finally, if you have ideas or resource material that you think would advance this project or assist in the creation of re-entry resources, please let us know about it.  We are particularly interested in people who are willing to engage directly by phone, mail or email with recently released sex workers who need a sex worker friendly, non-judgmental mentor.

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The books most often requested are biographies, short stories and self-help books, particularly those that assist with addiction and trauma related issues.  SWOPUSA will be happy to send you a tax deductible receipt for the published price of the books, the cost of printing newsletters and any shipping or mailing costs you incur.  You do not have to use your own return address for mailing books or newsletters; you may use the SWOP USA return address:

SWOP-USA
340 S LEMON AVE #7566
WALNUT CA 91789

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