Prostitution and Trafficking: What Happens in New York?

By now, the revelations regarding Governor Elliot Spitzer and a high-priced prostitution ring have been extensively covered in the media. Despite the disgraceful scandal and Spitzer's resignation, his legacy on the issue during his time in office is positive: he was viewed as an ally by advocates, and helped push forward legislation meant to help go after customers, pimps, and traffickers.

If there's a silver lining in this very dark cloud of scandal, it might be increased public attention to the issue of prostitution, possibly even a teachable moment? This editorial by Nicholas Kristof starts to point the way. ("Do as He Said," by NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF Published: March 13, 2008) He followed up with a Sunday Op-Ed, including a quote from Rachel Llyod of GEMS, a Bronx Community Solutions partner.

Kristof suggests that countries that have experimented with legalization have mostly gotten negative results. On the other hand a model in Sweden that goes after the demand by prosecuting "johns" may be promising. Hundreds of readers have chimed in with comments on his blog, On the Ground, which has some other interesting posts about prostitution and trafficking.

This weekend, the Daily News profiled the Midtown Community Court extensively in an informative if somewhat sarcastic editorial by Michael Daly.

[Known as] Manhattan's "King of Prostitution," [Judge Richard] Weinberg . . . insists defendants say "yes" rather than "yeah" and you had better not chew gum when you step before him. But you can count on some understanding if you are, say, a woman who fell into prostitution in her early teens then quit for 15years only to return to it after her furniture store went bust. Weinberg sent that woman for counseling at a program run with the Center for Court Innovation on the building's sixth floor."The staff can help you get out of that life," Weinberg told her the same day Spitzer resigned. "They're nice people up there."
It gives a good snapshot of how the New York City judicial system treats cases of prostitution (the more routine ones). It's also an issue we've been focusing on in the Bronx. You can see our findings on how Bronx cases are handled here.