Saturday, September 10, 2005

Indoor Prostitution "Legal" in Rhode Island Say Local Officials

9/10/05 -- Providence, R.I. -- Residence, law enforcement, prosecutors, and law makers are scratching their heads trying to figure out how they managed to turn their state in what could become the next "Sin City." This after several busted massage parlor employees challenged prostitution charges and won.

Apparently a loop-hole in state and local laws do not specifically outlaw prostitution which is conducted inside and away from the public. Officials say that this type of prostitution is usually conducted in massage parlors and spas posing as legitimate businesses, some within blocks of the Providence City Hall.

Law enforcement and suspected prostitutes came to blows (no pun intended -well maybe a little pun intended) after police raided nearly every suspected massage parlor and spa and charged several women with prostitution, but the charges were all thrown out and reduced to "performing a massage without a license." Some of the arrested are now awaiting deportation proceedings. Officials say that technically the women had not broken any prostitution laws, because what they were specifically charged with was not illegal, or at least not addressed in current laws.

Michael Healey, spokesman for the Attorney General's office, said that's not to say that there are no laws that can be used in Rhode Island to fight indoor, organized prostitution, but the language and requirements of current law make it very difficult.

"There's just no explicit language in that statute that says ... it is illegal for a john to pay a prostitute for sex in a room or in a spa or in a motel or something," Healey said (according to the AP).

Current law would require a prostitute to work with police in catching "Johns" or police must obtain absolute evidence of a sex-for-money exchange between two parties. Police admit that both scenarios are very difficult, time consuming and expensive to achieve.

Earlier this year, Sen. Rhoda Perry, a Providence Democrat, sponsored legislation that would make prostitution a misdemeanor punishable by up to 6 months in prison and $1,000 in fines. The bill died after drawing criticism for targeting prostitutes and not those that exploited them.

"I want to get at the source, not the poor woman who was being used in this way," said state Sen. Rhoda Perry, who later withdrew her proposed legislation. Editorial: Rhode Island should consider becoming the first state to decriminalize prostitution that is non-organized and kept away from the public. This means that you can't have an organized business like a sex shop, massage parlor, spa, etc. that offers prostitution, but, individuals may be legally involved in independent prostitution that is kept 100% behind closed doors (advertised, solicited, procured, and engaged in). This would give the state the legal teeth they need to address organized prostitution that are run by pimps and sex traffickers, but also allow individual women to earn an income without offending the public and without being further victimized by the judicial system.

Additional Materials:

  1. Though I'm not a fan of the ACLU, this was a compelling letter written by Steven Brown, executive director of the R.I. ACLU.