FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Pittsburgh, PA | June 18, 2018
New Voices Staunchly Opposes Criminalization of Sex Work and Condom Possession as “Instrument of Crime”
Contact: Lexi White, Policy Manager, firstname.lastname@example.org or 412.363.4500
New Voices for Reproductive Justice stands in staunch opposition to targeted criminalization and state-sanctioned violence in our communities. This includes the targeted criminalization and overly punitive treatment of Black and Brown women and femmes, LGBTQ+ people of color, and individuals who are disproportionately and arbitrarily targeted, exploited and punished for engaging in sex work.
The Pittsburgh Tribune Review recently reported on an analysis that suggests: “police charged people with both prostitution and possessing an instrument of crime in 100 cases last year in Allegheny County. In 15 of the cases, condoms were an alleged instrument of a crime. In 14 others, police seized condoms as evidence…in nearly all of the remaining cases, people faced “instrument-of-crime charges” for allegedly using cellphones to set up meetings…seeking sex for money.”
In addition to telling the story of a woman who was arbitrarily charged for possession of condoms as “instrument of a crime” in 2012, this article and PA advocates’ responsive outrage confirms what we already know to be true – the dangerous and “discretionary” actions of police, prosecutors, and other actors in the criminal justice system contribute to a culture of reproductive oppression that jeopardizes the health, safety and well-being of our communities. If left unchecked, such actions will continue to target and harm individuals and communities we serve that are most vulnerable to experiencing racist state-sanctioned and gender-based violence, exploitation and punishment.
Last Friday, New Voices for Reproductive Justice joined Pittsburgh SWOP and fifteen other local and state advocacy organizations in submitting a public letter to Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala. New Voices denounces the criminalization of possession of condoms and cell phones as evidence of intent to engage in “prostitution related crimes” as well as police seizure of condoms and other contraceptives. We also denounce the practice of adding the more severe possessing-instrument-of-a-crime charges to individuals charged with prostitution because they have condoms, contraceptives or cell phones in their possession.
“We believe that the police practice of seizing condoms and using them as evidence of prostitution, or to levy more serious instrument-of-crime felony charges in alleged prostitution cases, undermines public health and safety,” said Jessie Sage, Co-Founder of the Pittsburgh chapter of Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP), which has been spearheading community response.
“In addition to understanding these targeted actions as a threat to public health and safety, it should be duly noted that such harmful and disgraceful actions by police and prosecutors continue to occur at a political moment when policymakers are also unlawfully trying to deny access to a full range of vital reproductive healthcare options including but not limited to access to contraceptive equity,” says Lexi White, New Voices Policy Manager. “All of this is reproductive oppression.”
Reproductive Justice asserts our human right to have full agency in decision-making about our bodies, sexuality, gender, work, reproduction, and family formation.
“New Voices’ repudiates all state-sanctioned policies, procedures, and practices that deny these fundamental human rights. Furthermore, we affirm the human rights of sex workers and will continue to work with advocates in Allegheny County and across Pennsylvania to hold police, prosecutors, and lawmakers accountable to policy and culture change in support of the full health and well-being of our communities,” says New Voices for Reproductive Justice Founder and Executive Director, La’Tasha D. Mayes.
Stay tuned for more information as updates unfold.
If you are a Black sex worker in Allegheny County and you would like to share your story or get involved in leading community organizing, policy advocacy and culture change efforts, please email email@example.com or call 412.363.4500.
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