USA: Police State

Texas Spending $6.5 million on Prostitutes in Prisons

by Eric E. Sterling (Criminal Justice Policy Foundation and Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP))

Texas is holding more than 350 prostitutes in state prisons at a cost of more than $6.5 million per year, the Austin American-Statesman reports.

Oh how stupid. In 2001, it seems, Texans were upset with prostitution at truck-stops and on Dallas streets. The legislature provided that after three misdemeanor convictions (or guilty pleas, most likely), acts of prostitution would be punished as felonies.

Consider the utterly unseemly entrapment of women by members of a vice squad. Think of the state of mind of the undercover police officer doing this work. Actually don’t think on this too long, it is disgusting.

Consider the attraction of the work:

“I thought life was a big party,” said [Beatryce] Hall, 42, a mother of two daughters. “I started out dancing, got on drugs, went to the streets where I could make $300-400 a night. I wanted to, but couldn’t get out of that cycle.”

Certainly there are many people who don’t find this idea at all attractive. But at $300 per night, working 5 nights a week for 50 weeks, this work would generate a gross income of $75,000 annually. That’s pretty good pay. I suspect that all of that was cash and that much of it was not reported on a Form 1040 to IRS. Sure the work is may be hard  in many ways, and may often be unpleasant and dangerous — lots of work is. Does the work interfere with other priorities? Yes, like so many other jobs. Was it hard to quit the unpleasant job that paid $75,000? Yes, just as it is hard to quit any good paying but unpleasant job.

Assume that many prostitutes don’t like the work. So what? I know lots of lawyers who don’t like the work, too — renting their mind for thousands of hours a year for clients they find disgusting. They are highly demoralized (in a couple of senses of the term).

Why do we judge this work to be illegal, other than on the basis of legal tradition?

How are these women benefited by being arrested or by going to prison? How are the families of prostitutes benefited by sending a family member to prison? How is society benefited by sending prostitutes to prison? How are their legitimate employment prospects improved by arresting them?

Prostitution in brothels should be legal as it is in parts of Nevada. Prostitution by escort service should be legal. If street walkers are disturbing your neighborhood, legal brothels in commercial districts and legal escorts would be an efficient way to solve the problem.

And perhaps the rest of us might not have our taxes wasted on the pointless costs of enforcement.