Responding to Cook County's Proposed Moratorium on Felony Prostitution
CHICAGO—The End Demand Illinois campaign has proposed legislation, Senate Bill 1872, to eliminate felony sentencing for prostitution in Illinois. While the Cook County Board heard a proposal yesterday for a moratorium on felony sentencing in Cook County, End Demand Illinois also urges support for its legislation to address this problem on a statewide level.
“We appreciate that Cook County officials don’t want to see people charged with felonies for prostitution,” said Lynne Johnson, policy and advocacy director for the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation. “We urge lawmakers and the public to support Senate Bill 1872 to eliminate the felony upgrade for prostitution throughout Illinois. This is not just a Cook County issue, as it affects people in counties throughout our state.”
Last week, Senate Bill 1872 was approved unanimously in the Senate Criminal Law committee, and it has strong support in the General Assembly. Felony charges for prostitution are unjust and expensive throughout Illinois:
• Felony prostitution is an expensive waste of diminishing local and state public safety resources. Illinois’ Department of Corrections reported 127 felony prostitution admissions for 2012, costing the state $2,011,680. Pretrial detention for those facing felony prostitution charges costs Cook County Department of Corrections between $5.3 to 9.5 million annually.
• Felony prostitution unfairly targets women for harsher punishments. The “solicitation” offense for customers does not have a felony upgrade for subsequent offenses and is rarely enforced. In 2011, when law enforcement charged under the state criminal code, there were 1,875 arrests for prostitution and 95 arrests for solicitation. Since 2010, 370 women have been admitted to IDOC for felony prostitution. Fewer than 10 people in Illinois have ever been convicted of the felony offense of “patronizing a prostitute” since its passage in 2010.
• Felony prostitution sentencing is rare in the United States. Only seven other states have a felony prostitution sentencing option for subsequent offenses. (Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, Texas)
The Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation is the lead agency for End Demand Illinois, a campaign to refocus law enforcement’s attention on pimps, johns and traffickers while proposing supportive services for people impacted by the sex trade. To learn more about the campaign, visit www.enddemandillinois.org
The Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE) addresses the culture, institutions, and individuals that perpetrate, profit from, or support sexual exploitation, including sexual assault and the commercial sex trade. Its work includes prevention, policy reform, community engagement, and legal services. To learn more, visit www.caase.org or call (773) 244-2230 ext. 3.