Everyone has a right to feel safe in their communities. California’s law that criminalizes loitering with intent to commit prostitution gives law enforcement a tool to harass and discriminate against Black and trans communities, particularly women of color. The Safer Streets for All Act will take away this outdated and subjective Penal Code section 653.22 which has for too long allowed law enforcement to criminalize and harass someone based on the color of their skin, their gender, or how they choose to make a living.
SB 357 (Wiener) will repeal current California law that has allowed for targeted, discriminatory policing of communities of color and enable people who have been convicted using this subjective law to clear their names. The overbroad interpretation and enforcement of this law has led to discriminatory stops and disproportionate arrest rates of already targeted communities for loitering with the intent to commit prostitution.
In Los Angeles County, these disparities paint a stark picture of how this racist, discriminatory code is impacting our most marginalized communities: In Los Angeles, Black adults make up over half of the people arrested under this provision, even though they are only 8.9% of the city’s population.
These stops are deeply traumatic and have a lasting impact on those who are harassed or arrested. The impact of these encounters with law enforcement reinforces already heightened stigma when someone is arrested for this offense due to the difficulties securing employment and safe housing with an arrest record relating to sex work.
As some of the most marginalized members of our community, sex workers deserve to maintain their livelihood without fear of violence or arrest. SB 357 will move California one step closer to acknowledging sex workers as deserving of full dignity and respect.
SB 357 cosponsors are Positive Women’s Network – USA, St. James Infirmary, SWOP LA, [email protected] Coalition, Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach, Equality California and the ACLU of California Action.