Prostitutes = sex offenders in New Orleans

In New Orleans, the cops and the DA’s office are using a 200-year-old state law written for child molesters to charge hundreds of sex workers as sex offenders.

photo by Abdul Aziz for Colorlines

The law, which dates back to 1805, makes it a crime against nature to engage in “unnatural copulation”—a term New Orleans cops and the district attorney’s office have interpreted to mean anal or oral sex. Sex workers convicted of breaking this law are charged with felonies, issued longer jail sentences and forced to register as sex offenders. They must also carry a driver’s license with the label “sex offender” printed on it.

An article in Colorlines, the national newsmagazine of race and politics, quotes community activist Deona’s assertion that this weird manipulation of the law “is part of an overall policy by the New Orleans Police Department to go after petty offenses.” Colorlines reports that New Orleans police arrest more than 58,000 people every year. Of those arrested, nearly 50 percent are for traffic and municipal offenses, and only 5 percent are for violent crimes.

Sex workers accused as sex offenders face discrimination in every aspect of the system. In most cases, they cannot get released on bond, because they are seen as a higher risk of flight than people charged with violent crimes. “This is the level of stigma and dysfunction that we’re talking about here,” said [Josh] Perry [a former attorney with the Orleans Public Defenders office]. “Realistically, they’re not getting out.”

The prospect of challenging sex offender charges is made especially difficult by yet another weird Louisiana legal catch-22. According to Perry, “The way Louisiana’s habitual offender law works, if you challenge your sentence in court and lose, and it’s a third offense, the mandatory minimum is 20 years. The maximum is life.”

If you fall on the wrong side of the law just once, as was the case for many of the women interviewed for this article,  you are going to have a major struggle ever getting your life back on track.  Beyond the ongoing weirdness of this obsessive criminalization of sexual behavior, this seems to be one more glaring instance of the criminalization of being poor and helpless.


1 Response to “Prostitutes = sex offenders in New Orleans”

  1. October 18, 2013 at 1:56 am

    Thanks , I’ve just been looking for information
    about this subject for ages and yours is the greatest I’ve came
    upon so far. But, what concerning the conclusion?
    Are you certain in regards to the supply?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Ineffable beauty, unspeakable evil, and all sorts of crap in between

Twitter Updates

wordpress analytics

%d bloggers like this: