Monday, July 19, 2010

Ferrera's prostitution proposal defeated 12-1

Jesse Lederman just called me to let me know that Councilor Ferrera's proposal to send prostitutes and johns to jail for a mandatory one year sentence was defeated by the Springfield City Council-- twelve to one!

About thirty people came down to the council speak-out tonight to show opposition to Ferrera's proposal.  A half dozen of us had signed up to speak, including Arise members, Out Now members and the members of the Prison Birth Project.  Jimmy Ferrera spent most of his time during the speak-out chatting with Kateri Walsh, listening with only half an ear, if that, as his later remarks showed.

Jesse tells me that at one point during the presentation of his proposal, Ferrera said, "As you can tell from tonight's speak-out, there are some people in this city who actually support prostitution."   Councilors Keith Wright and Melvin Edwards challenged his interpretation, saying that they hadn't heard that from the speakers at all-- that we understood drugs are a problem in our community, that prostitution follows the drugs, not the other way around, that we all have a right to live in a safe  neighborhood..

In fact I hear that Melvin Edwards, councilor from Ward Three, just shot down every one of Jimmy's fallacious arguments in favor of incarceration. He echoed the speakers tonight who said that studies have shown mandatory minimums don't prevent the offenses for which they are designed.  He spoke at least three different times.  Thank you, Councilor Edwards.

  I do believe prostitution should be decriminalized, and I do believe that nine out of ten women, men and youth who are doing street level sex work-- survival sex, as they call it-- would be off the streets in a year if they had access to drug treatment on demand, a network of understanding supporters, and a decent job and housing they can afford.  Let's take the approximately $38,000 cost of incarcerating someone in the county jail system in Massachusetts and use it to help open doors.

Problem is, there's always money to lock more people up, even as jobs and drug treatment-- and so much more!-- are cut from the state budget.  That $38,000 would not come from the city's coffers, but from the pockets of Springfield's residents, whose taxes are the bulk of  the state's revenue.  And someone-- I think from the Prison Birth Project--  pointed out the immense cost of law enforcement, especially sting operations,  in Springfield, and the diversion of needed police resources from serious crimes.

I don't think Councilor Ferrera has given much time to understanding what street level sex work is all about..  I wonder how much money he is willing to propose be added to next year's city budget to attack the root cause of the issue.  How about designating a municipal building as a drug treatment on demand center?  Sure, when pigs fly.

As Arise's Ellen Graves said tonight, no one intends to be a prostitute when she or he grows up.How can we help people reclaim their faith in the future, instead of stomping on their lives?

Photo from luckyfish's photostream at Flickr.


scribadiva said...

Michealann: I know I was a complete bitch yesterday, and I'm sorry. I did miss your posts.
Re: Mandatory Minimums The DA in Berkshire County is for them, so of course, I voted against him. With MM's, you don't need a judge; just set up a slot machine, and pull the lever.
Also on same page regarding sex workers. Very Glad you are out there, because you are speaking for me, too. Take care, Sweet tides, Linda

Michaelann Bewsee said...

Thanks, Linda. I am glad to be back.