Safety And Sexual Citizenship Of Sex Workers Criminology Essay

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This essay will seek to show how kerb crawler rehabilitation programmes have impacted on the health, safety and sexual citizenship of sex workers. Starting with a brief overview of what kerb crawler programmes are and the reasons for their existence, and moving on to what they entail and what their primary aims are, before looking at the three key impacts individually. Each of these key points will be considered carefully in turn before concluding that although on the surface kerb crawler rehabilitation programmes seem to benefit sex workers, this in fact is not the truth.

The empirical focus in the present day is on the transnational growth of Kerb Crawling Education Programmes or John Schools as they are referred to in United States and Canada. Since emerging in North America from the 1980s, they have subsequently emerged in South Korea and the United Kingdom (Cook, 2012, p15). This alternative sentencing strategy is designed for male clients of female prostitutes who have been charged with an offence. Upon entering a guilty plea, these men are diverted into a one-day educational program that focuses on the social harms caused by the sex trade. After completing the program, the original prostitution charge is withdrawn. Although prostitution offender programmes alter their programs to fit their specific locales, they tend to consist of six major components. Firstly there is an introduction to the law and legal aspects relevant to participating in sex work, for example in Canada this consists of the law on the communication for the purposes of prostitution, as well as laws related to pimping and bawdy-houses. A second component deals with health risks associated in prostitution, focusing on sexually transmitted diseases and their impact on long-term health. This part of the program is often presented by local health services personal. The third aspect may consist of testimonials by 'survivors' of prostitution, former sex workers detail their lives, including their dealing with drugs and alcohol addictions, their family backgrounds, their negative feelings towards customers, pimp involvement and prostitution itself, as well as their efforts at leaving prostitution. Fourthly there is the aspect of possible sexual addiction and how to manage this, this session may include a psychologist or health professional who describes sexual addiction and its symptoms. Fifth would be the part of the program that would deal with community and merchant concerns, community activists detail their concerns with prostitution in their neighbourhood and the effects that such activities have for them in their daily lives, these concerns reflect both quality of life and economic/property value issues. Finally, there is information on pimps, outlining the tactics used to lure young women into the business of prostitution and the means by which pimps are able to sustain women's involvement in prostitution, it may be led by either policing agencies or social services groups (Fischer et al, 2002, p374). This strategy is based on the expectation that the information provided by the educational program will cause the offender to abandon the use of street prostitutes. Although these programs sound like they benefit sex workers, there are several negative repercussions of these sessions that affect the health, safety and sexual citizenship of sex workers.

Firstly there is the health aspect, during 1998-9 one initiative that aimed to target men who pay for sex in the UK was the Kerb Crawler Rehabilitation Programme (KCRP). The programme aimed to create safety in communities by adopting a more pro-active approach to kerb crawlers by shifting the focus from street prostitutes to the users. O'Neill et al (1994) stress the importance of including sex workers in debates about policy development, the need to listen and include womens' experiences and voices, but in the development of the KCRP there appeared to be only limited consultation with women who sell sex on the streets, or with projects working with them. A crucial lesson for feminists to consider when involving themselves in policy development is the potential impact of policy on sex workers and the need to consult sex workers about their own needs and views. Initiatives that treat workers as objects of concern rather than subjects, no matter how well intentioned, sit uneasily with feminist politics. One objective of the KCRP was to reduce the client base, arguing without demand there would be no supply, however what does this mean for street sex workers? Fewer clients mean sex workers have to work extended hours to earn enough for their subsistence, increased competition for client's means that prices are reduced. There is probably going to be a shift to later hours of working in order to avoid police and make contact with clients or earlier hours in order to tap into a broader market. Working earlier in the day can create more conflict with residents. Targeting their clients further erodes sex workers livelihoods and adds to their marginalisation, it seems the KCRP just added to this hardship. Another health concern is research that shows that with greater competition for clients and no alternative income, women are more likely to accept less money and take greater risks in terms of personal safety and sexual health. Wilcock (1998) found that among those sex workers who disclosed they had not used condoms 'desperation for money and lack of clients were cited as the main reasons for not using condoms' (Wilcock, 1998, p63). This would suggest that initiatives which aim to reduce client numbers by intensive policing and client arrest, and which do not make any other provision to meet sex workers needs carry serious health and safety implications. The cutting down of client base raises concerns about the basic question, what are men being rehabilitated from? "If a man who has only respectfully met with street workers, obeyed the rules by sticking to the contract, paying the money upfront, listening to the women's rules in terms of sexual services, condom use and what is and is not allowed, drives to the appropriate place and returns the woman to where she asks, then what is he doing wrong? What is this man being rehabilitated from?" (Sanders, 2009, p85). Brooks-Gordon (2005) asks how the programme can be justified if the main activity of buying sex is not against the law? Equally, if the aim is to eradicate street prostitution, then the programmes would include content that advised men of the alternative places to buy sex other than the street market. Stopping the activity of kerb crawling can only be done by allowing men to exercise their legal choices in other markets. It can be seen that there is a need to need to listen and include womens experiences and voices, and the targeting of clients further marginalises sex workers and can create even more conflict in communities and pose health risks when it comes to practicing safe sex.

Secondly we have the safety aspect, given that the criteria for the majority of causes are that individuals cannot have any previous convictions for sexual offences or violence, the majority of men who attend will not have caused direct harm to sex workers or have committed violent offences, in some ways this could be seen as a positive, as at least by targeting first time offenders it may put them off potentially harming in the future. However, even if the focus is shifted to clients, the active policing of street prostitution has a number of implications for the safety and welfare of street workers themselves. Police operations that proactively target clients usually involve the on-going policing of female soliciting. More intensive policing operations mean that women are more likely to work in a more isolated, unfamiliar and unsafe area to avoid surveillance and arrest. There may be increased migration between 'beats' in different areas where the women are less familiar with the scene and 'dodgy punters' (Campbell et al, 2001, p99). If there is an awareness that police are looking for evidence of kerb crawling, the client and sex worker will be under pressure to negotiate as quick as possible, this means that sex workers have less time to suss out clients and put in place safety strategies. An example of how these programmes help sex workers would be in Canada, where their John School program currently has a $400 dollar fee paid by all program participants. This money is controlled by Streetlight Support Services which use these revenues to fund programs that assist female prostitutes who want to exit the sex-trade, however one cannot ignore the risk that the expansion of the John School model could be used to justify further reductions in social service expenditures and ultimately produce a situation in which police are encouraged to make arrests in order to generate revenue for social or rehabilitative initiatives. Prostitution offender programmes are not equal opportunity programs, by focusing on the street revenue, participants tend to be those with the least financial and social power, while those who frequent other prostitution venues are apparently less in need of similar rehabilitation, given the relative infrequency of stinging operations carried out in these revenues. The area in which the impact of John Schools appears weakest is with regards to deterring future prostitution-related activities. Van Brunschot (2003) suggests that fining customers is not an effective deterrent because individuals who chose to purchase sex typically have enough money that the small fines are not a significant consequence. Critics of John School programs in Canada address the fact that the overall focus of the programme is on participation in prostitution when the act of prostitution itself is not illegal in that country. "Men arrested for attempting to purchase sex in Canada are legally charged with communication of prostitution, John Schools' do not address the illegal aspect of communication, but rather they focus on the legal intent to purchase sex" (Gillings et al, 2010, p5). It can be seen that John Schools appear to have no significant deterrent affects above and beyond arrest and subsequent criminal proceedings, is it just a stall tactic? A get out of jail free card? We must ask ourselves whether limited post-program changes to prostitution-related knowledge and attitudes, without significant behavioural change, justifies the temporary suspension of due-process rights and the creation of an arrests for revenue diversion process.

Finally there are the impacts of John Schools on sex workers sexual citizenship. "The concept of sexual citizenship refers to how individuals 'belong' to a society, or not, based on sexual identity and behaviour. By one's sexual behaviour being included and accepted by society, then one is able to access privileges and taken for granted 'rights' such as the rights to sexual expression" (Sanders, 2009, p518). An apparently permanent feature of the urban landscape is street prostitution. On the one hand, there is the image of the prostitute with her heart of gold simply doing the best she can (recall Pretty Woman), on the other hand there is the image of the prostitute as a junkie, turning tricks for her next hit and attracting the worst of society. Traditional policing efforts have focused on female vendors as offenders, leaving males virtually unexamined, however more recent policing efforts aim specifically at the male consumer. In his book Disorder and Decline, Skogan (1990) explains that many urban areas are characterized by disorder. Social disorder according to Skogan "is a matter of behaviour, while physical disorder "involves visual signs of negligence and unchecked decay" (Skogan, 1990, p4). According to this definition prostitution qualifies as both a social and physical disorder. Residents of communities in which prostitution takes place, however, more often ground their complaints in the physical disorder of prostitution: used condoms and needles may litter the streets where sex is sold and traffic snarls quiet streets. Urban communities appear unwilling to accept prostitution as part of the landscape, at least if it happens to occur within a community's line of vision, therefore providing policing agencies to embrace the prostitution problem. However certain types of prostitution are treated very differently, such as the escort venue which is very nearly endorsed by the government, given the licensing requirements of the escort agency. "The implication of selectively targeting particular prostitution venues as threats to the welfare of the community while ignoring others puts the entire 'welfare of the community' argument on shaky ground. If prostitution truly threatens the welfare of the community, then it is difficult to explain why prostitution control efforts focus on participants with the least respective power" (Van Brunschot, 2003, p225). If prostitution offender programs were really centrally concerned with rehabilitation and prostitution more generally, then geography would not impede the police from attempts to 'rehabilitate' participants from other venues, given that prostitution, and not geography is the focus of these programs.

In conclusion the behavioural goals of the John School diversion programme have never been clear, there has been fundamental disagreement among the key stakeholders. While some have insisted the key goal is to make people stop engaging in all prostitution-related activities, others have suggested its objective should be to convince offenders to stop engaging in harmful street prostitution. In this way, the Johns' continued use of non-public forms of prostitution would be considered an acceptable and successful outcome. In order for John Schools to be beneficial there needs to be prostitution policy that includes the challenging of negative attitudes towards sex workers, enabling their views and experiences to be heard in all their diversity, challenging violence against sex workers and ensuring policy development grows out of an inclusive process which consults all groups involved and affected by prostitution, including sex workers themselves who are often marginalized in the policy arena. There should be no place for interventions that merely increase the daily risks and pressures faced by street-working women.

References

Brooks-Gordon, B. (2005) 'Clients and Commercial Sex: Reflections on Paying the Price: a Consultation Paper on Prostitution', Criminal Law Review, June, pp 425-443

Campbell, R. and Storr, M. (2001) 'Challenging the Kerb Crawler Rehabilitation Programme', Feminist Review, 67, pp 94-108

Cook, I. R. (2012) Sex, education and the city: Teaching 'appropriate' urban sexualities at Kerb Crawling Education Programmes. Centre for Offenders and Offending Inaugural Symposium, Northumbria University.

Fischer, B. Webster, C, And Wortley, S. (2002) 'Vice Lessons: A survey of prostitution offenders enrolled in the Toronto John School Diversion Program', Canadian Journal of Criminology, 44 (4), pp 370-402.

Gillings, A., & Willoughby, M. (2010). 'An investigation into "John's Schools"', Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation, March 2010, pp 1-42.

O'Neill, M. Johnson, M. McDonald, M and McGregor, H. (1994) 'Prostitution, feminism and the law: Feminist ways of seeing, knowing and working with women working as prostitutes' Rights of Women Bulletin, Autumn/Winter.

Sanders, T. (2009) 'Kerbcrawler rehabilitation programmes: Curing the 'deviant' male and reinforcing the 'respectable' moral order', Critical Social Policy, 29 (77), pp77-99

Sanders, T. O'Neill, M. And Pitcher, J. (2009) Prostitution: Sex Work, Policy and Politics London: Sage

Wilcock, S, (1998) The Lifeline Sexwork Project Report: Occupational Health and Safety Issues and Drug Using Patterns of Current Sexworker: Survey Findings. Manchester: Lifeline

Van Brunschot, E. (2003) 'Community policing and "john schools"', The Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology, 40 (2), pp 215-232.

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