Proposition K, San Francisco, November 2008:


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Naomi Akers, MPH
Executive Director, St. James Infirmary*
Former Executive Director, PROMISE, for women escaping prostitution*
Former Planning Committee Member, Safe House*
*For identification purposes only. Does not imply endorsement of agency or institution.

As a San Francisco native who has been providing social services and outreach to indoor and street-based sex workers of all genders and ages for over 13 years I know that regardless of how sex workers got to their current situation being criminalized is a social injustice with serious public health consequences.

Prostitutes are victims of abuses including rape, robbery, exploitation and poverty. NONE of this gets better when prostitutes or trafficked victims are criminalized and sent to jail. A yes vote on Proposition K will end the suffering that results from arresting prostitutes.

The police and prosecutors say they need to arrest and jail adult and child prostitutes to "protect" them from pimps and traffickers. Instead prostitutes are violated and humiliated every time police jail them. Jail means the loss of families, community, housing and other assets, as well as the demoralizing effects such as strip searches and having male officers watch female prisoners shower, dress and use the bathroom. In San Francisco jail the rates of infections like TB, HIV and staph are greater than in the general public, making jail a health risk. NONE of this helps prostitutes or San Francisco.

Because prostitutes are currently criminalized and may go to jail, they are afraid to report abuse like violence and coercion. Proposition K will NOT cut funding to voluntary programs or funding to pursue traffickers but would change the priority from arresting prostitutes to arresting abusive pimps, brutal rapists and traffickers. This will allow SFPD more resources to pursue violent crime and permit sex workers to utilize community services to better their lives.

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