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Friday, January 15, 2016

UN COMMITTEE ON ELIMINATION OF RACIAL DESCRIMINATION

Dear Ms. Mirelle Fanon-Mendez-France (Chairperson, France), Mr. Sabelo Gumedze (South Africa), and Ricardo A. Sunga (Phillipines) of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination:

I'm writing you after reading this press release.  https://swop-sanantonio.org/press-release-from-the-us-human-rights-network/

I don't know if you're aware of this, but in 1987 I founded the first hotline for adults to call for help in leaving the sex industry.  This included any part of the sex industry whether it be from stripping, porn, or prostitution - and thus legal or illegal parts of the industry.   Because sex trafficking can occur in porn, stripping, and prostitution, the help we offered was also extending help to sex trafficking victims as well.  Something unheard of in 1987.

In fact, in 1987 all sex workers were viewed as either criminals or deviants by the criminal justice system.  I know this to be fact because of the Hillside Strangler case.  I took a woman who had been stabbed 51 times by these pimps to the task force set up to catch the killers along with their names, addresses, phone numbers, etc.  Only to be thrown out of their offices.  When I demanded to know why - I was told "because we can't get a warrant based on the word of a whore".  When I asked for more explanation of that statement I was told that because prostitution is a crime - that our word in a court of law was essentially worthless to build a case of any kind on.  

This had to change and the modern day sex trafficking movement was born.  While Wilber Wilberforce did found the anti-slavery movement in the 1700's, I can assure you I was the person who started standing up in the 1980's to demand our legal system change it's view of us to include the fact that some of us they were arresting as prostitutes were being forced to be there as victims.  Thus they deserved at least an "alternative to sentencing" until such time as it could be decriminalized.  

Being advised by the California Attorney General at that time, Edwin Meese, that a 12 step program could serve this function without the need for special courts, special laws, special grants (remember this was before sex trafficking had received federal recognition), or even the requirement of bringing in a professor or PhD to design any type of "program".  That we could operate as one immediately under the existing laws created by AA and NA.  

Which is what we did.  Through the support of then mayor Tom Bradley, Chief Gates and Sheriff Block, a board was set up with someone from each office such as the LAPD, probation, social services, mental health, CDC, etc. to get everyone on board for the first alternative to sentencing program in our country's history which launched in 1988.  

When I went into the womens' prison, there were 2000 inmates in a jail built for 200.  Our survey learned that 1800 of those women were there on prostitution related charges.  Almost every one of the 400 transgenders who were being made to sleep on the cafeteria floor of the mens' jail were also there on prostitution charges.  In the mens' jail, we learned there were 20 pimps there who had been "turned out" by their own fathers into "the game" at about 13 years of age, and another 80 male prostitutes.  

Working together, we cleared out the jails.  Those who had mandatory sentences for other crimes were allowed to transfer to an empty drug treatment center which was turned into the first residential program for adult prostitutes - many of who were trafficking victims.  I would like to add that out of all of those men and women - our count was over 95 percent of those incarcerated were African American.  

Why are such a large number of prostitutes in custody African American?  The sex industry is an extremely racial industry.  There is the Asian massage parlors for one.  You rarely find an Asian woman street walking.   Russians also tend to work in massage parlors or through "mail order bride" companies.  White girls work as "dominantrix's", or in stripping, or as porn performers or even webcam models - also keeping them off a street corner and harder for a police officer to arrest.  Even within the legal brothels of Nevada, it's well known that Dennis Hof and Lance Gilman do not hire that many women of color.  Almost every woman you'll see at the ranches are white girls with blond hair if you look at the catalogs on their sites.   Because of the way the sex industry is structured, women who are African American and Hispanic are relegated to working as street prostitutes.  

Every vice cop I've ever spoken to has told me that it's a "piece of cake" to arrest a street prostitute.  They just go out and pretend to be a john, pick her up and she's busted.  No special investigations or even "stings" have to be set up to get her arrested.  If she gets in the car and says "yes" they got a bust.  However, with the strip clubs, massage parlors, porn sets, etc., one has to set up an whole elaborate "sting" operation to bypass their security, to even be accepted as a customer (you have to have references or a review to be accepted to seen escort for example).  The cops tell me they have no budget for investigations.  Thus they have to go the "easiest" route which is picking up the street walkers which by default are women of color and transgenders.  

This community had an almost 100 percent recidivism rate.  The reason was simple.  When they were released, they were homeless and penniless without even transportation.  You get locked up for two or three weeks when you're in a hotel already and you'll also lose your room, your things will be thrown out, your kids taken from you, your car towed, etc.   To get food for the evening and shelter for the night, they would literally have to leave jail and go "turn a trick" just to survive.  Since they didn't have time to get hired at a strip club, massage parlor, porn agency, or even legal brothel in Nevada, and they didn't qualify for emergency assistance from social services, they were resorting to street prostitution.  Which of course got them re-arrested again very quickly.  Unable to even purchase condoms - the HIV rate at that time in sex workers was showing up at over 80 %.

The problem with HIV outreach programs was three-fold.  First, condoms were being used against them as evidence of prostitution so sex workers weren't using them.  Second, the outreaches weren't factoring into their testing that trafficking victims had pimps who weren't going to take them in for testing - free and anonymous or not.  Third, that once tested positive their pimps again weren't going to let them stop prostituting.  So to cut red tape, Bradley set up a very innovative program through the health department, UCLA, and the CDC, along with an ex-porn performer named Sharon Mitchell, to create AIM.  This was a special testing site not only ran by an ex-porn performer for the sex industry which guaranteed information would not be incriminatory - but also there was a system set up to remove trafficking victims from their pimps on the spot.  To do so leaving them homeless, penniless, etc.  - these victims were provided with housing, medical, food, vocational training, counseling, and of course support through our 12 step program as well.

This program was so effective, I was asked to go to Allentown, PA in 1989 to duplicate it.  The "Program for Female Offenders" was born.  We also were so effective there that we cleared out of the womens' jail 1800 African American women (there was only one Asian and two white girls in that program), which also allowed them to retain custody of their children.  One thing we learned working with prostitutes is that almost without exception these women had more than one school age minor child.  In fact, the average number was three children.  These were kids who were being put into foster care when their mothers were incarcerated for prostitution.   We saved the county $750,000 and allowed them to postpone having to build a bigger jail to hold these women.  

In 1990, the Governor of California was tired of paying out all this money on drug treatment with an almost 100 percent relapse/failure rate.  I believed that was because the current drug treatment system was refusing to address the fact that most addicts were engaging in sex work in order to pay for their drugs.  While allowing addicts to speak about things like theft, forgery, and other crimes to get drug money, but refusing to address sex work, this was contributing to the lack of success with treatment.  I was asked to set up a program to train drug counselors how to address this in order to get drug programs' numbers up under the threat funding was going to be cut if these programs didn't start showing some success.

Through James Crossen of the Addictions Studies program at Mission College, that's just what we did.  I started training drug counselors in how to work with those who had not only engaged in sex work, but who had also been sex trafficking victims, to get the help they needed to find sobriety, and consulting with program directors on program design to address this also.  By the end of the year - we were showing amazing numbers and those who had incorporated what I'd taught them remained in business and kept their funding.  Those who didn't - didn't. 

By the year we passed the Trafficking Act of 2000,  our program had chapters in just about every major city of the USA.  No one would allow us to rent meeting space because prostitution was a crime.  As such, we couldn't get insurance.  Without insurance, no meeting hall.  So the Salvation Army and Catholic Charities agreed to let us meet on their property.  The courts were then offering convicted prostitutes a choice - jail or attend SWA meetings.  Those who came to our program are still in recovery today.  

However, everything changed when the TVRA of 2003 passed.  This essentially required that anyone getting federal funding had to not only be a "faith based" program, but had to sign an "anti-prostitution" agreement.  Now why people felt this excluded our program I have no idea.  But suddenly each and every meeting we were holding across the USA was handed an "eviction" notice by these two charities.  We were told we could no longer meet there, nor even come onto their grounds to keep working with our sponsees.  

Everyone from social workers, mental health counselors, police officers, guards, etc. were told if they referred anyone to us they'd be fired.  To replace what we'd created that was proving effective - faith based programs were set up in a completely different fashion by CAASE.  One of these you may have heard of was Project Rose.  These programs targeted women of color who work predominantly as street prostitutes.  They would haul them into police cars illegally, without right of counsel, without advising them of their rights, and then terrorize them into agreeing to attending "classes".  

It's my understanding one can't accept federal funding without a "program" such as ours.  I was approached by Melissa Farley and asked if I would alter the philosophy of our program to violate our traditions.  As a 12 step program we "have no opinion on outside issues".  Meaning that AA doesn't push to bring back prohibition nor does NA try to block medical marijuana legislation or shut down dispensaries.   Neither can we oppose the sex industry or support it.  Our focus is entirely on the member and what they want to do with their lives - not on trying to "end demand" for commercialized sex such as prostitution and porn products.  I explained that to them and explained why we also could not be part of any program that forced people to attend under threat of arrest.  

What they did then was essentially lie to me, violate our copyrights and trademarks, and also engaged in a form of "economic inteference" and defamation.  To qualify for their funding and licensing, they held 12 step meetings using our name and brand but defining it however they wanted.  They would issue interviews with major media such as NBC, the Fix, and social media - and then when I'd confront them about holding "illegal" meetings without my consent they'd lie.   Finally I had enough black and white proof of what they were doing to issue a written "cease and desist" order which not only stopped them from holding these illegal meetings that weren't even our program - but also meant they couldn't qualify for their funding and licensing.  So they've shut down.  

These people then connected to the Hunt Foundation then started coming to me asking me to change the name of our program so they could continue to hold meetings for their intended programs.  Our name is decided by our members so I refused.  Then they started a "no such thing" campaign claiming there is "no such thing" as a "sex worker" and that "all prostitution is rape".  

When I went to the Los Angeles Womens' Jail recently I was told they have 5000 female inmates.  Remembering a great number of them before were prostitutes, I asked the jail if I could resume our meetings in the jail now I'm back living in Los Angeles.  While we have over 190,000 members in the USA - there aren't many willing to hold a jail meeting but myself.  I was told by the jail "we have no prostitutes in this facility".  I asked for an explanation and was told "we only have victims in this facility".  

I'm being told that our program can not be used in connection with governmental trafficking programs because we "sell our Recovery Guide".  However, Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and even Sex Addicts Anonymous, programs that are routinely referred to by the courts also sell their literature.  The ironic thing is our members never have any money and we've always donated the books anyway.  The price is purely for tax purposes so we can write off what we donate at the end of the year with a dollar amount. 

My point being that I'm reading you're going to be inspecting the jails with in mind how the African American's are being treated.  If you look at the imagery connected with Jada Pinkett's "Don't Sell Bodies" and her CNN special in Atlanta in 2015, and with the "No Such Thing" campaign - what you see over and over again is images of African American women.  Malika Saar is even wearing corn rows when speaking about the campaign.  Each victim (I highly doubt they're real however) they trot in front of the camera is either African American or Hispanic - never white.  I however am blocked from the camera and I'm white in appearance (I'm actually not white - I just look like I am).  

California right now is considering Prop 47 to supposedly reduce inmate population.  I'm hearing about all these drug addicts being released to get treatment.  However, right now every single court that I approach about resuming alternative sentencing for those convicted of prostitution - I'm getting nothing but the runaround about how our "name is wrong" or we "sell our books" or some other nonsense that has nothing to do with anything.  Narcotics Anonymous for example does not "legitimize" drug use by the name of their program as we've been accused of doing by our name.  

There was a supreme court decision that upheld these people can not continue to refuse to work with us simply because we don't spout the same beliefs on these subjects as these other people do.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agency_for_International_Development_v._Alliance_for_Open_Society_International,_Inc.  Meaning their refusal to work with us violates this Supreme Court opinion.  Every prostitute who is being held in jail on prostitution charges is being denied access to a recovery program in this country and I don't know what to do about it.  

I think this is a horrific violation of someone's constitutional rights and humanity to be forced to be incarcerated, where one's children are taken away from them, simply because the people in charge don't think they should be allowed to attend our program because of their philosophical beliefs.   An alcoholic who runs over someone in a DUI is allowed to attend AA.  An addict who robs an old lady for drug money is allowed to go to NA.  A man who rapes little children is allowed to attend Sexaholics Anonymous meetings.  So please keep in mind these same people are denying this same access to women who are predominately African American to come attend Sex Workers Anonymous meetings which if they were to allow it - we could clear a lot of them out of the jails and prisons.  Denying them the same access to recovery that the addicts are now enjoying.  

I don't think that's fair - do you?   One thing, Professor Sharon Oselin completed a 10 year study into the top three programs working with prostitutes recently published in "Leaving Prostitution".  The program that came out on top was the one that incorporated our program.  In fact, that was the only one still operating at the end of the study.  The other two failed because the women wouldn't even stay in the program and therefore they were failures.  After the study, they dropped our program, the women left, and that third program folded.  I think that speaks pretty highly that we are the most effective program in the country at this time, as well as the oldest and the largest working with this community.  


Jody Williams
(702) 468-4529 Cell Phone
www.sexworkersanonymous.com

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