Skip navigation

Txcjc Effective Approaches Reducing Prostitution 2013

Download original document:
Brief thumbnail
This text is machine-read, and may contain errors. Check the original document to verify accuracy.
Effective Approaches for
Reducing Prostitution
in Texas:

Photo by David Selsky

Proactive and Cost-Efficient Strategies
to Help People Leave the Streets

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
Report Designer
Kim Wilks
For more information, please contact:
Ana Yáñez-Correa, Ph.D.
ExecuƟve Director
1714 Fortview Road, Suite 104
AusƟn, Texas 78704
(work) 512-441-8123, ext. 109
(mobile) 512-587-7010
acorrea@TexasCJC.org

2013
The Texas Criminal JusƟce CoaliƟon (TCJC) works with peers, policy-makers,
pracƟƟoners, and community members to idenƟfy and promote smart jusƟce
policies that safely reduce the state’s costly over-reliance on incarceraƟon – creaƟng
stronger families, less taxpayer waste, and safer communiƟes.

© 2013 Texas Criminal JusƟce CoaliƟon. All rights reserved. Any reproducƟon
of the material herein must credit the Texas Criminal JusƟce CoaliƟon.

A FAILED APPROACH TO PROSTITUTION IN TEXAS
The diversion of individuals with low-level, nonviolent offenses from the criminal
jus ce system has not only been shown to improve public safety; it has also resulted
in significant cost savings for state prison systems.1 Diversion programs have proven
especially successful in re-direc ng individuals with mental illness and addic on issues
away from incarcera on and toward much needed treatment services. Individuals
who engage in sex work are far more likely to suffer from mental illness, drug and
alcohol addic on, and past trauma than both the general popula on and many
other individuals entering the criminal jus ce system.2 The proven effec veness of
diversion programs when applied to similar popula ons compels us to believe that
an increase in the number of pros tu on diversion programs in Texas will posi vely
impact public health and public safety while simultaneously saving taxpayer dollars.
Texas incarcerates sex workers at a higher rate than most other states, and it is
the only state in the na on to charge individuals engaging in pros tu on with
a felony.3 This puni ve approach has not significantly deterred individuals from
pros tu on or decreased the number of pros tu on arrests. Instead, Texas’ policies
have resulted in high costs associated with policing, prosecu ng, and incarcera ng
these individuals, and they have created collateral consequences for the arrested
individuals themselves and the communi es where pros tu on occurs.4 Indeed,
individuals face lifelong barriers associated with convic on, including limited access
to housing and employment, while communi es struggle to address popula ons
that are under-employed or homeless, and draining local budgets.
Pros tu on diversion programs throughout the country, including one in Dallas, have
a proven track record of success in offering individuals a safe exit from pros tu on.
Based on an examina on and considera on of these successful models, the Texas
Criminal Jus ce Coali on urges legislators to consider expanding such programs
throughout the state.

Texas Criminal Justice Coalition

1

www.TexasCJC.org

Photo by Ashley Webb

Who Are Sex Workers?
The majority of individuals who engage in pros tu on are low-income
females who have suffered childhood abuse and sexual assault, and
who are afflicted with mental illness and/or struggling with drug and/
or alcohol abuse.5
Poor people of color: Although only 10-20% of pros tu on occurs
on the streets, the majority of law enforcement ac vity focused on
pros tu on targets street solicita on. Since those working on the
streets are dispropor onally poor people of color, this leads to the
dispropor onate incarcera on of low-income individuals and people
of color.6

Although only 10-20%
of pros tu on occurs on
the streets, the majority
of law enforcement
ac vity targets
street solicita on,
dispropor onately
impac ng poor people
of color.

Vic ms of violence and abuse, many of whom suffer from PTSD: Women and transgendered7 individuals
experience significantly more violence during sex work than men, although men are vic mized as well.8
Not surprisingly, several studies reveal a high and ever-increasing rate of incidents of Post Trauma c
Stress Disorder (PTSD) among pros tutes. PTSD results from a direct experience that involves actual or
threatened injury or death, or witnessing an event that causes the death or injury of someone else. It
can also result from learning about the unexpected or violent death of, or inflic on of harm on, a family
member or close associate. When such death or injury is caused by another person, as is the case with
the assault and abuse experienced by sex workers, PTSD may be especially severe or long las ng. With
a majority of sex workers repor ng a history of childhood physical and sexual abuse, and with more
than 68% of pros tutes repor ng being vic ms of rape since entering the pros tu on business, there is
no doubt that many of these individuals suffer from PTSD.9 This fact must be taken into account when
determining the most effec ve way to serve this popula on.10
Homeless, and struggling with addic on and other disorders: Frequently, sex workers report being
homeless or previously having been homeless. In many cases, homelessness contributed to an
individual’s decision to engage in pros tu on, this line of work being the only viable means to afford
housing and food.11
In a study published by Pros tu on Research and Educa on, 75% of surveyed pros tutes also reported a
problem with drugs and/or alcohol. Furthermore, research has revealed that individuals who engage in
pros tu on suffer from chronic medical condi ons at a dispropor onally high rate.12
Without comprehensive services in place, it is not easy for pros tutes to simply abandon their primary
means of support. Accordingly, any program hoping to offer pros tutes a viable and sustainable
alterna ve to sex work must provide assistance with housing, educa on, healthcare, employment,
substance abuse treatment, and mental health counseling.13

Texas Criminal Justice Coalition

3

www.TexasCJC.org

Prostitution in Texas
The Criminalization of Prostitution
In Texas: History and Ramifications
Throughout American history, states have experienced both periods of enforcement and periods of tacit
acceptance of pros tu on. During World War II, the United States experienced a renewed effort to
criminalize pros tu on, a trend based on the fear that sexually transmi ed diseases would threaten the
health of the military. Following a resurgence of pros tu on in Texas ci es a er the war, civic, religious,
and media groups launched an aggressive campaign aimed at intensifying the public’s concern with
pros tu on. As of the 1980s and 1990s, city officials had a limited number of legal tools and resources
to effec vely address pros tu on. They therefore decided to focus their efforts on what they viewed as
the most publicly offensive dimension of pros tu on: street solicita on.14
Despite these efforts, a leading an pros tu on organiza on named Galveston
as the na on’s number one hotspot for
pros tu on in 1995. In addi on, the
Dallas–Fort Worth metropolitan area also
experienced high levels of pros tu on,
par cularly at truck stops.15 Although the
Dallas Police Department would later go on
to develop a model pros tu on diversion
program (discussed more fully below),
Texas lawmakers have focused primarily
on locking people up.16 As a result, Texas
has developed a reputa on for imprisoning
more pros tutes than almost any other
state; and, as previously men oned, it
remains the only state in the na on to
charge pros tutes with a felony.
The nega ve ramifica ons of such a puni ve approach are significant. Besides the financial disadvantages
of incarcera on, criminalizing pros tu on and incarcera ng pros tutes has proven ineffec ve, and it is
a clear example of a policy driven by public opinion rather than systema c analysis. One theory is that
criminalizing pros tu on makes it an una rac ve op on to those who might consider this line of work,
and also encourages those already working as pros tutes to search for other livelihoods. Unfortunately,
the current laws related to pros tu on have not only failed on both fronts, but have actually made
it more difficult for pros tutes to leave the profession, since once a pros tute has a criminal record,
finding legi mate work becomes that much more difficult. In addi on, the criminaliza on of pros tu on
forces pros tutes to retreat even further from public view, making an already vulnerable popula on even
more suscep ble to violence and abuse.

Texas Criminal Justice Coalition

5

www.TexasCJC.org

EFFECTIVE APPROACHES FOR REDUCING PROSTITUTION IN TEXAS

Texas Prostitution Laws
The table below shows the charges and corresponding sentences for pros tu on in Texas, as per Sec on
43.02 of the Texas Penal Code.
Offense

Charge

Sentence & Fine

First Offense

Class B Misdemeanor

No more than 180 days and/
or no more than a $2,000 fine

Second Offense

Class A Misdemeanor

No more than 1 year and/
or no more than a $4,000 fine

Third Offense +

State Jail Felony

180 days to 2 years and/
or no more than a $10,000 fine

The law that has resulted in Texas being the only state in the na on to make pros tu on a felony was
enacted in 2001. If an individual has been convicted of pros tu on on three or more occasions, he or
she will subsequently be charged with a felony and sent to state jail or prison.
NOTE: Grounds for exemp on from prosecu on for pros tu on include intoxica on, entrapment, age,
duress, lack of knowledge, and the absence of money being received for sexual contact.17

Texas Prostitution Laws in Practice
In the summer of 2012, the Aus n American-Statesman es mated that there are currently 350 individuals
serving me in state jail or prison due to pros tu on convic ons, although at the me of the report not
even one person was serving me due to solicita on of pros tu on services. (The report did not detail
the number of individuals who cycle in and out of local jails for pros tu on offenses every year; that data
is difficult to obtain in any standardized format across Texas’ 254 coun es.)
As the chart to the right
shows, 94% of all individuals
incarcerated in Texas state
prisons for pros tu on come
from only four coun es. This
illustrates the need for a targeted
approach, whereby diversion
programs are implemented in
specific communi es.
It costs an average of $15,500
to $18,538 annually to house
an individual in a state jail or
prison, while par cipa on in a
community-based rehabilita on
program costs only $4,300 per
individual per year. The repeal

Texas Criminal Justice Coalition

Individuals
Incarcerated for
IndividualsIncarceratedfor
Prostitution,
By County
Prostitution,ByCounty
Tarrant

Dallas

Bexar

Harris
0%

5%

6

10%

15%

20%

25%

30%

35%



www.TexasCJC.org

EFFECTIVE APPROACHES FOR REDUCING PROSTITUTION IN TEXAS

of the 2001 law and the increased use of pros tu on diversion programs could result in savings of over $4
million annually, money that could instead be funneled into much needed treatment programs.18 Given
Texas’ ongoing budget deficit, the fiscally sensible choice for the state would be to treat individuals
convicted of pros tu on in their own communi es at one-fourth the cost that the state currently
incurs for incarcera ng these individuals.

Human Trafficking in Texas
Human trafficking – the sale, transport and profit from human beings who are forced to work for others –
is the modern equivalent of slavery. (It is important to note that vic ms of human trafficking are no longer
prosecuted according to pros tu on laws but are instead provided with the services and assistance they
need to escape their exploita on.) While not all individuals working as pros tutes are vic ms of human
trafficking, it is difficult to discuss pros tu on without addressing this serious issue. The I-10 corridor
in Texas (from the El Paso area through San Antonio and Houston, to Louisiana) has been iden fied
by the Department of Jus ce as one of the main routes for human trafficking in the United States. In
2006, 25% of all individuals cer fied in the United States as vic ms of human trafficking were cer fied
in Texas. Human trafficking is a problem in the state largely due to its long border with Mexico, its
diverse demographics, and a large migrant labor force.19 Since many individuals working as pros tutes
began their pros tu on careers when, as vic ms of human trafficking, they were forced to perform this
work, it is absolutely impera ve that law enforcement agencies and members of programs working with
pros tutes are well versed on the issue.

Texas Criminal Justice Coalition

7

www.TexasCJC.org

More Effective Approaches
to Prostitution Offenses
In order to significantly reduce the number of individuals working as pros tutes, a coordinated approach
that addresses the various problems and needs of this popula on over a longer period of me is cri cal.
There are a number of pros tu on diversion programs opera ng throughout the country and world,
including ones here in Texas. These programs differ in many ways, but generally share two important
characteris cs: they treat individuals engaged in pros tu on as vic ms rather than criminals, and they
offer an array of services that enable sex workers to find other livelihoods if they so choose.

Prostitute Diversion Initiative (PDI)
The Pros tute Diversion Ini a ve (PDI) in Dallas became opera onal in 2007 and has drawn upon a vast
array of community-based resources, engaging a broad range of organiza ons in an effort to help individuals
exit pros tu on. The Dallas Police Department took the lead in developing this diversion program in
response to its realiza on that its aggressive focus on enforcement at Dallas truck stops only served to
move the foot traffic from the streets into the big rigs themselves. The Department was experiencing a
nearly constant drain on resources and realized that its approach was not working. The PDI has been able
to connect service providers with those in need of treatment and other help, and by engaging individuals
prior to a trip to jail, the PDI not only saves money but also avoids criminalizing these individuals.
The procedure used by PDI is as follows, per par cipant:
1) Admi ed into staging area through arrest or voluntary walk-in.20
2) Accompanied by a police officer and assigned an advocate.21
3) Moved to triage, consis ng of a brief assessment to determine immediate needs.
4) Provided food and clothing.
5) Provided STD screening, treatment, and educa on by the county health department mobile unit,
which is onsite.
6) Provided ID cards for access to services, if needed.
7) Taken before a judge in community court.22
8) Referred/Assigned to PDI New Life, a 45-day treatment and recovery program.
9) Upon successful comple on of the New Life program, individuals become eligible for transi onal
housing, job training, outpa ent mental health services, and mentorship.
The following sta s cs about individuals served by the PDI provide insight into the adversity that sex
workers face. This reinforces the argument that the provision of services in lieu of a more puni ve
approach is not only the most effec ve way to help individuals leave pros tu on, but it is also in the
best interest of a community’s public health and safety.23

Texas Criminal Justice Coalition

9

www.TexasCJC.org

EFFECTIVE APPROACHES FOR REDUCING PROSTITUTION IN TEXAS

Did You Know?
Nearly half of par
Fi

cipants had less than a high school educa on.

y-nine percent of par cipants had children.

Many par

cipants had an array of chronic medical condi ons.

Ninety-seven percent of par
Fi

cipants reported using drugs and/or alcohol.

y-four percent of par cipants reported having a mental health condi on.

Thirty-seven percent of par

cipants had a empted suicide.

Over half of the 182 par

cipants tested for STDs screened posi ve for an STD, and 20 new
cases of syphilis and 2 new cases of HIV were iden fied.

Phoenix-Based Prostitution Diversion Program
A similarly successful pros tu on diversion program in Phoenix helps par cipants understand their
op ons, the risks they face, and how they can be er take care of their mental and physical health.
Working in collabora on with other community services and employing former sex workers, the program
has been able to help many individuals transi on out of pros tu on while providing substan al savings
for the city.24

Multi-Purpose Diversion Program:
Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD)
LEAD is a pre-booking diversion program developed by the Sea le
city government in collabora on with community interest groups
to address low-level drug crime in a more cost effec ve and
sustainable manner. This program diverts individuals engaged
in low-level drug ac vity into community-based services in an
a empt to improve public safety and public order, while reducing
the criminal behavior of the program’s par cipants. Proponents
of LEAD argue that the program can reduce the recidivism rates
for individuals with low-level offenses, allowing the criminal jus ce
system to more effec vely focus its resources on those commi ng
more serious, violent crimes. The developers and supporters of
LEAD believe that for the program to be a success, there must be: 1)
adequately trained staff and officers; 2) clear policies and protocols;
3) immediate access to needed programs for par cipants; 4) funding
allocated solely for direct services; 5) use of peer outreach workers
and case managers; 6) the involvement of community leaders and
stakeholders; 7) cultural competency; and 8) a commitment to
reinves ng savings in preventa ve social service programs.

Texas Criminal Justice Coalition

10

“It’s nuts that we’ve got this
many pros tutes in prison,
people that we’re not afraid
of, but we’re just mad at.
By locking them up, we’re
not fixing the problem —
we’re just spending a lot of
money incarcera ng them,
warehousing them, when we
could be spending a lot less
ge ng them treatment so
they can get out and stay out
of this business.”
Senator John Whitmire,
Aus n American-Statesman,
August 25, 2012

www.TexasCJC.org

EFFECTIVE APPROACHES FOR REDUCING PROSTITUTION IN TEXAS

Though the LEAD program was developed in response to low-level drug offenses, it is a model that
can easily be applied to the diversion of pros tutes from the criminal jus ce system. A er a careful
examina on of the efficacy of their criminal jus ce policies, Sea le officials realized that the city’s policies
regarding low-level drug offenses were neither cost-effec ve nor financially sustainable, and they did not
result in significant long-term reduc ons in low-level drug offenses. Officials recognized that the need for
fiscal austerity presented a unique opportunity to be innova ve and pragma c in the iden fica on and
implementa on of new solu ons to age-old problems.25 We encourage Texas policy-makers to adopt a
similar a tude of innova on and pragma sm when developing new programs designed to reduce rates
of pros tu on in our state.

Texas Criminal Justice Coalition

11

www.TexasCJC.org

Cost-Saving and Public Safety-Driven Solutions
The Case for Prostitution Diversion Programs in Texas
Between 2006 and 2009, 14,019 individuals with a variety of offenses have been re-routed from prison
to felony proba on with no visible nega ve impact on public safety. In fact, between 2007 and 2010,
the state’s crime rate decreased by 9%.26 By contrast, incarcera on has been proven to destabilize both
individuals and communi es, making problems even worse.
Individuals become involved with pros tu on for a variety of reasons. It may be a conscious, voluntary
decision; it may be a means of survival; or it may have been forced upon them. Whatever the reasons,
experiences of violence, childhood abuse, substance abuse, mental illness, and homelessness are
common denominators shared by the vast majority of pros tutes. There have been no studies that have
shown pros tu on to be a significant danger to public safety, whereas a tradi on of puni ve responses
to pros tu on has clearly demonstrated the high social and economic costs. The development of
pros tu on diversion programs that offer cri cal services to individuals engaged in pros tu on is, to date,
the only proven method to offer pros tutes a viable and permanent exit, while simultaneously saving the
state and coun es much needed funds and posi vely impac ng both public health and public safety.

Four Critical Solutions
For the above reasons, the Texas Criminal Jus ce Coali on encourages Texas decision-makers at both the
state and county level to:
1) Develop and implement pros tu on diversion programs in Harris, Tarrant, and Bexar coun es, and
provide the resources necessary to make such programs a success.
2) Con nue to support Dallas’ Pros tute Diversion Ini a ve.
3) Develop a system to track all pros tu on cases in Texas and their corresponding sentences and
outcomes, so decision-makers can be er understand the scope of the problem and respond with
effec ve and appropriate policies.
4) Repeal the 2001 law that s pulates a felony convic on following a third convic on for pros tu on.
With these measures, Texas will undertake a more effec ve, realis c approach to preven ng and addressing
pros tu on.

Texas Criminal Justice Coalition

13

www.TexasCJC.org

Endnotes
1

Cowell, Alexander, Nahama Broner, & Randolph Dupont. “The Cost-Effec veness of Criminal Jus ce Diversion
Programs for People with Serious Mental Illness Co-Occurring with Substance Abuse.” Journal of Contemporary
Criminal Jus ce 20, no. 3 (2004): 292-315.

2

Farley, Melissa & Barkan, Howard. “Pros tu on, Violence, and Pos rauma c Stress Disorder.” Women & Health
27, no. 13 (1998): 37-49.

3

Ward, Mike. “Texas Rethinks Law Making Repeat Pros tu on a Felony.” Aus n American-Statesman, August 25,
2012.

4

Roe-Sepowitz, Dominique, Kris ne Hickle, Martha Perez Loubert, & Tom Egan. “Adult Pros tu on Recidivism:
Risk Factors and Impact of a Diversion Program.” Journal of Offender Rehabilita on 50, no. 5 (1990): 272-85.

5

Farley, Melissa & Howard Barkan. “Pros tu on, Violence, and Pos rauma c Stress Disorder.” Women & Health
27, no. 13 (1998): 37–49.

6

Meier, Robert & Gilbert Geis. Criminal Jus ce and Moral Issues. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.

7

Transgender people are those whose psychological self (“gender iden ty”) differs from the social expecta ons
for the physical sex they were born with.
8

Meier, Robert & Gilbert Geis. Criminal Jus ce and Moral Issues. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.

9

Farley, Melissa & Howard Barkan. “Pros tu on, Violence, and Pos rauma c Stress Disorder.” Women & Health
27, no. 13 (1998): 37–49.

10

Ibid.

11

Ibid.

12

Ibid.

13

Felini, Martha, Amy Abraham, & Goria Mendoza. “Annual Report: October 2008 - September 2009 Pros tu on
Diversion Ini a ve.” In Annual Report. Dallas: Dallas Police Department, 2010.

14

Humphrey, David. “Pros tu on in Texas: From the 1830s to the 1960s.” East Texas Historical Journal 33 (1995):
27–43. See also: Mackey, Thomas. Red Lights Out: A Legal History of Pros tu on, Disorderly Houses, and Vice
Districts, 1870-1917. New York: Garland, 1987.
15

Mackey, Thomas. Red Lights Out: A Legal History of Pros tu on, Disorderly Houses, and Vice Districts, 18701917. New York: Garland, 1987.
16

Ward, Mike. “Texas Rethinks Law Making Repeat Pros tu on a Felony.” Aus n American-Statesman August 25,
2012.

17

Texas Pros tu on Laws. h p://www.statelaws.findlaw.com/texas-law/texas-pros tu on-laws.html

18

Ward, Mike. “Texas Rethinks Law Making Repeat Pros tu on a Felony.” Aus n American-Statesman August 25,
2012.

19

A Report of the Texas Advisory Commi ee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights. “Human Trafficking
in Texas: More Resources and Resolve Needed to Stem Surge of Modern Day Slavery.” August 2011.
20

As PDI is a police opera on, all voluntary walk-in par cipants will be subject to search, outstanding warrant
check, and debrief by the Vice Unit.
21

Advocates are o en former pros tutes and are thus well posi oned to offer support.

22

Judge can use Class C misdemeanor offenses as leverage to persuade prosecutors to accept treatment in lieu of
jail me.

Texas Criminal Justice Coalition

15

www.TexasCJC.org

EFFECTIVE APPROACHES FOR REDUCING PROSTITUTION IN TEXAS

23

Felini, Martha; Abraham, Amy; & Mendoza, Gloria. “Annual Report: October 2008 - September 2009 Pros tu on
Diversion Ini a ve.” In Annual Report. Dallas: Dallas Police Department, 2010. (Reference for en re discussion of
Dallas Pros tu on Diversion Ini a ve)

24

Roe-Sepowitz, Dominique, Kris ne Hickle, Martha Perez Loubert, & Tom Egan. “Adult Pros tu on Recidivism:
Risk Factors and Impact of a Diversion Program.” Journal of Offender Rehabilita on 50, no. 5 (1990): 272-85.

25

The Defender Associa on-Racial Disparity Project. “Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD): A Pre-Booking
Diversion Model for Low-Level Drug Offenses.” Sea le.

26

Federal Bureau of Inves ga on, Uniform Crime Reports, U.S. Department of Jus ce; accessible at
h p://www.ucrdatatool.gov/Search/Crime/State/StatebyState.cfm; see Texas’ violent and property crime rates
for 2007 and 2010.

Texas Criminal Justice Coalition

16

www.TexasCJC.org

Photo by David Selsky

1714 Fortview Road, Suite 104
Austin, Texas 78704
(512) 441-8123
www.TexasCJC.org

 

 

Prison Profiteers - Side
Advertise Here 4th Ad
Disciplinary Self-Help Litigation Manual Side