Good news - Supervisors vote to audit anti-prostitution program targeted by planned ballot initiative

Victory! SF Board of Supervisors vote 7 to 4 for a complete audit of the First Offenders Prostitution Program, run by SAGE, SF District Attorney, and SF Police Dept.

by Robyn Few
March 5, 2008

On Tuesday March 4th San Francisco Supervisor Jake McGoldrick was supported by his fellow Board members to have a full audit of the controversial program that has been raining havoc on the street prostitution community since 1996, the First Offenders Prostitution Program (FOPP).

A local ex prostitute and ex drug addict named Norma Hotaling, who had a rap sheet longer than your arm, decided to turn in her high heels and needles. She started working closely with the San Francisco Vice Squad to help get prostitutes off the streets by arresting them and sending them to her new program at SAGE, Standing Against Global Exploitation. Her brain child, the First Offenders Prostitution Program is a shame based program, that you are forced into by the court system. Money taken in by the FOPP is distributed between the SF District Attorney's Office, the SF Police Department and our local non profit, SAGE. The worst news about the program is it has been duplicated in 25 cities around the US.

Once there, if you are a client or 'John' you pay your hefty fine of anywhere from $1000 to $1500. During your visit to SAGE and the FOPP you may be shown pictures of rotting penis's, or perhaps be ridiculed and yelled at by ex hookers. Maybe you will be threatened, because if you don't pay up your fine and be a good student in the program the police will contact your family and tell them all about your arrest.

Unfortunately, this program targets the most marginalized members of the sex worker community, street workers and their clients. The majority of men who are arrested and placed in 'John's School' are men of color who don't speak english. The prostitutes are not given any other choices and are forced by the courts to attend the FOPP. They are sometimes fined anywhere from $500 to $1000, depending on their ability to pay.

Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP) has been working with Supervisor Jake McGoldrick, the Erotic Service Providers Union (ESPU) and US Prostitutes Collective (US PROS) to expose the FOPP. For the last few years, the ESPU has requested information through the SF Sunshine Taskforce about the finances and the role of the District Attorneys office in the FOPP. Supervisor McGoldrick has held meetings with the DA and SFPD about the FOPP. He has met countless times with sex workers trying to find out information on the program. To date we have not been given any information. Not even basic info, like how many participate in the program a year, what is their race and gender . Never mind the main question we want to know, where does the money go from the fines and how does that fine money pay for the expensive sting operations that bring in the clients for the program.

The FOPP reeks of corruption and mismanagement. It is time that sex workers fight against discriminating programs that are being run by politicians. We must stop the profiteering by law enforcement and NGO's off the criminalization of prostitution. We should be given choices by the courts to do diversion programs that we choose not programs that we are forced into that separate and stigmatize us from the rest of society. We must decriminalize prostitution so that we are not afraid to ask for help when we are ready to exit the sex industry. We need programs that are not shame based but respect us for the choices that we have made and trust that we will leave the sex industry when we are ready, not when you force us for our own good.

SFLP,

Saturday night, at approximately 10 PM, I was nearly run over by a speeding car that cut across the Larkin Street sidewalk, to cross over the Post Street sidewalk, to go a few feet up Post Street and come to a screeching halt. (This is the corner where the large dry-cleaner shop with the white vans is located.) At the same time, a small group of people who had just stepped into the Post Street crosswalk were nearly run over by another car that sped through the red light on Post Street. Both cars were driven by undercover cops hellbent on busting a guy who had made the mistake of stopping to talk with SFPD's female-prostitute decoy.

The cops used their cars to block the taxpayer's car. Then the cops (a total of 5 cops, 6 if you count the ugly decoy) yanked the taxpayer out of his car and threw him on the sidewalk, face down. They hand-cuffed him, then took him away in a black-and-white police van (2 more cops). Then a tow truck hauled the taxpayer's car away.

I walked to the next corner at Sutter and Larkin and noticed SFPD had their large sting-mobile (a tall, room-sized, box-shaped van) and a couple black-and-white cop cars parked in the funeral home's empty parking lot, near the corner. The backdoor of the sting mobile was open and a light was on showing cops were inside doing something--I don't know what. I'm certain this group of tax-liabilities (maybe 5 more cops) were, also, part of the bust on Post Street.

My point is this: Global warming will become reality before San Francisco wises up and gets out of the expensive cat-and-mouse game of chasing sex workers and their customers. The city plays this useless game as a favor to the police department to protect them from doing their real job of chasing real criminals, the type that shoot back and knock the crap out of five-feet tall female cops.

One more thing: San Francisco has created the false image that it is for sexual freedom. When I see nonsense like SFPD vice-squads and I hear "progressives" support this type police "work" and, at the same time, complain about sexually-up-tight-red-state-Bible-belt types, I loose my mind! San Francisco "progressives" that keep voting in uptight losers like Gavin Newsom, Kamala Harris, the Board of Supervisors and the rest of the local nanny-state, prove themselves to be the long-haired, rasta-haired, Che-type, mirror-image of the Jimmy Swaggart-type morons they complain about.

Sadly, the vice-squad will out live us all.

Sincerely,

Donald Fields