Prostitution legalization advocates to meet with DA

April 10, 2019 Noah Goldberg
State Senator Julia Salazar and State Assemblymember Richard Gottfried listen to an activist speak at a Feb. 25 sex work decriminalization rally. Eagle photo by Noah Goldberg.

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez will meet with advocates of the decriminalization of sex work to discuss why they believe prostitution should be legal, he said Wednesday.

“We’re in a particularized time in criminal justice where people are looking for different solutions to old problems,” Gonzalez told reporters at a press conference.

The Brooklyn DA said he recently attended a forum hosted by people who support full decriminalization of sex work — but that his focus remains prosecuting sex-traffickers.

“My obligation — I think — is to make sure I’m protecting children from being sex-trafficked and women who are being forced into this trade,” Gonzalez said.

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez. Eagle file photo by Rob Abruzzese
Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez. Eagle file photo by Rob Abruzzese

The decriminalization of sex work has gained traction as a political movement in New York recently, with state senators and assemblymembers joining a coalition of activists in calling for the repeal of a law that criminalizes loitering for the purpose of prostitution.

Arrests for the loitering charge increased in 2018 for the first time since at least 2012, and disproportionately affected trans women and women of color, according to Documented NY.

Gonzalez said in March that his office would reconsider its approach to prosecuting the loitering charge, though he has not come out in support of full decriminalization.

The Brooklyn DA’s office convicted 26 people of human trafficking in 2018 and indicted another 20 cases of human trafficking last month, Gonzalez said.

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“Is what we’re doing now the best way we can get to traffickers, or is there a better way of doing it?” he asked Wednesday.

Gonzalez acknowledged that many sex workers feel that his office is not being effective in its pursuit of traffickers when it arrests the workers themselves.

He called his office’s current prosecution of sex workers “soft prosecution.”

“We’re bringing people who get arrested for prostitution and trying to see if this is something they’re doing because they want to be doing this or because they’re being trafficked, or because they don’t feel they have other options.”

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