SF City Prostitution Task Force Report/Legalization or Decriminalization?

At the SF Libertarian Party's Activist Forum on Wednesday, I mentioned having recently read this report online (http://www.bayswan.org/SFTFP.html) and expressed my amazement that an official Board of Supervisors committee produced something so clearly favorable to our goal of legal prostitution.

  I suggested that a good focus in San Francisco would be to seek official follow-up to see to what extent the recommendations in the report have been implemented. Robyn agreed this was a good idea. I just wanted to put the notion out there for the community's thoughts, and in case any others are unaware of this excellent document.

  I also note with interest recent comments on the difference between "legalization" and "decriminalization" (below). In the libertarian movement, and to my knowledge in U.S. politics in general, these terms have been used with slightly different meanings than those given here.

  As I am familiar with the term "decriminalization," it means that the offensive laws stay on the books, but the penalties for breaking them are reduced to mere infractions, or if not officially reduced, at least de-fanged by non-prioritization of their enforcement or even the adoption of non-enforcement as official policy.

  "Legalization," on the other hand I have always understood to mean the complete elimination of Prohibitionary laws regarding the thing to be legalized. This is of course morally preferable as a stronger statement in support of the notion that we are not criminals. However it comes with the aforementioned practical disadvantage of potentially being a harder sell to the public for this very reason. There is also the consideration that in our present climate of money and power-hungry governments, legalization is almost certain to be accompanied by onerous regulation and taxation, while decriminalization might avoid or lessen this burden for our community.

  Both terms have been most commonly used in the context of the War on Drugs. There has also been a move in libertarian circles to speak of "re-legalization" rather than simply "legalization," in order to communicate the fact that drugs (and for that matter prostitution) were once legal, and we as Abolitionists are simply restoring traditional values. 8)

Yours in liberty,
              <<< Starchild >>>
        2004 Candidate for San Francisco School Board

P.S. - If the <pro-decrim@...> and <protalk@...> lists require you be a subscriber in order to post to them, perhaps someone here who is on those lists would be so kind as to forward this message to them for me, since the message below on legalization and decriminalization was posted there.

Yolanda wrote (in part):

Decriminalisation and legalisation are always hard to explain but I've
always described it this way.

Legalisation of prostitution means making it legal within certain boundaries
(like if you work in a 'registered' parlour or whatever the legal framework
describes as being legal). However, any prostitutio n that occurs outside of
these boundaries is still criminalized (like street work or working for a
business that hasn't been legally sanctioned). This usually creates a
two-tier system, where legal and illegal prostitution work side by side,
retaining many of the problems of criminalisation (for the illegal section)
and giving the legal section of the industry a monopoly which often results
in a deterioration of work conditions for the sex workers (because you
either put up with whatever 'management' demands or you work illegally and
deal with police and arrest on an ongoing basis). Often only very wealthy
people or those with the right connections can open up legally and market
forces do not determine the number of legal operators (though they do
determine the number of illegal ones) because the number of business is
generally set by the authorities and based on how many they'd like, not
what's needed. When Victoria (Australia) tried legalisa tion, the illegal
industry soon outnumbered the legal industry something like three-fold.

Decriminalisation involves removing all criminal laws regarding prostitution
and using misdemeanour codes to exercise control where it occurs, such as
town planning codes. What this means is that all prostitution is NOT illegal
but if you work in an area that's been deemed inappropriate (in Sydney NSW
that would be if you work within the view of a church, school, ground floor
dwelling or hospital), then you get a ticket issued by police and fines are
paid. This is generally a better deal for everyone because all the
prostitution businesses that the market forces require can open up and
owners basically compete with each other for staff, so work conditions
usually improve. If workers aren't happy in a place, they are free to leave,
find work elsewhere, open up for themselves or work privately. The issuing
of tickets and fines are still a deterrent so it's not like the industry
goes wild and opens up everywhere. In the end, prostititutes don't want to
be conspicuous and if there are locations where you can work and not be
fined, people tend to open up and work there, rather than somewhere that
attracts ongoing fines.

Hope this helps. Others may have different definitions but these are the
ones I go with.