Manhattan District Attorney Legalizes Prostitution
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance this week announced that his office will no longer prosecute prostitution cases, essentially making prostitution legalized. The announcement means that more than 6,000 prostitution cases will be dismissed – some dating back to the 70’s.
“Over the last decade we’ve learned from those with lived experience, and from our own experience on the ground: criminally prosecuting prostitution does not make us safer, and too often, achieves the opposite result by further marginalizing vulnerable New Yorkers,” says Vance. “Now, we will decline to prosecute these arrests outright, providing services and supports solely on a voluntary basis. By vacating warrants, dismissing cases, and erasing convictions for these charges, we are completing a paradigm shift in our approach.”
District Attorneys in Queens, the Bronx, and Brooklyn also made similar moves, asking judges to dismiss hundreds of prostitution-related cases.
“This announcement shows that the Manhattan DA is committed to changing its approach to the sex trade by decriminalizing people who are in prostitution and supporting those most at risk of exploitation,” says Rev. Dr. Que English of the New York State Anti-Trafficking Coalition.
The trend to abandon prostitution cases and make prostitution legalized is related to a move earlier this year by state lawmakers to repeal a statute criminalizing loitering for the purpose of prostitution because it is believed to have caused discriminatory enforcement affecting trans women.
However, Vance confirmed that his office’s approach to pimps, sex traffickers, and patrons of prostitution would not change.
As critics have been quick to point out, Vance lacks the legal authority to declare prostitution legal. This is an issue that elected lawmakers should decide on, not individuals.
“It flies in the face of law and order,” says NY Assemblyman and former police officer Mike Reilly (R). “Not holding these people accountable for these illegal activities will just bring about more serious crimes…Now they will do it without any cover of darkness.”
Author’s Note: The issue here is not prostitution itself, but Vance’s unilateral decision to legalize it. As stated above, this is something that elected lawmakers should decide. In fact, his decision – and the state’s acceptance of it – represents a worrisome breakdown in the democratic system.