Solving Prostitution Part II

Solving Prostitution Part II

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This all started because I read a petition that used sensationalism over substance to achieve a visceral reaction to gain a signature for a petition. A member of the Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery told me that he agrees with me that the law DOES undisputedly contain a a way to detain juveniles without criminalizing them.

But that part of the petition remains unchanged. Which means they still choose pretty fiction over uncomfortable fact.


Earlier this week I sat down with the Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery. After explaining everything to them, After their representative saying they AGREE with me on my point about the law, they amended a PART of their petition (to something that is still wrong). But the first sentence of their petition is still WHOLLY A LIE. It’s absolutely not true. I showed EXACTLY where in the law they can “detain juveniles without criminalizing them”, and they prefer to keep it as the lead in their petition. Probably because it is effective. It is only effective to people who don’t know what the law reads.

Basically there have three responses once they are made aware:

      1. “Marcus, we won’t change it because you read the law wrong. HERE IS WHY you read the law wrong, HERE IS WHERE the law says something different than what you say.”
      2. “Marcus, you read the law right, so we will change the petition to be intellectually honest.”
      3. “Marcus, its a great pitch, why should we change it?

Guess which they’re going with so far? Change it to be honest with the people you’re attempting to convince. They’ll quote you, they’ll then get corrected. Then they’ll blame you for leading them on..

(and the one edit they did make is wrong, here is the correct chart of the park closure vs. prostitution punishments:)


Intellectually disingenuous.

As a good lawyer friend of mine wrote me, “Even if it did have the same penalty as sleeping in the park, how’re they going to feel when they succeed and it has the same sentence as putting the wrong sticker on your taxi cab!”

The Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery Update
At the end of the last blog post I put something of a challenge I suppose, to PASS to contact me if they truly wanted to have a conversation to solve the issue of Prostitution in the state of Hawaii. One person, who I assume is a member but seemed to be a head of a different, unrelated, lobbying group came to my office and met with me for about an hour and a half. The conversation was nothing if not overly cordial, everyone very apologetic meaning not to step on toes.

I left the meeting learning a number of things about this group. This is my impressions, and again, I hope they prove me wrong:

      1. Their passion for the topic has not driven them to learn about the topic — And to be clear, I don’t mean to learn about statistics or backgrounds about prostitution itself, clearly they know that. But they’ve done nothing to research criminal law or penal theory. They seem to not even read the law themselves sometimes. Understand this: It appears they don’t even read the laws they’re trying to change.
      2. They seem to think laws are the answer — The government may not be the best answer to this problem. Instantly helping exploited people who naturally don’t trust the government (especially if they’re from a country for whom “government” is synonymous with “winning gang”), vesting all control in the government may be wrongheaded. An NGO with the proper thrust may be a better solution.
      3. They have a problem with language — They insist on using “trafficking”, when their meaning of trafficking is AT BEST the third definition you associate with that word. They insist on using “slavery”, which places them in the double bind of competing with and comparing to the middle passage, Dred Scott, and multiple wars that tore our country at its very soul. Using the word “prostitution” or “exploitation” are both just as descriptive and not nearly as loaded towards a incongruent meaning.
      4. Most importantly, They believe what they want to believe — When the prosecutors tell them that certain laws mean certain things, they don’t check into it, they take it as gospel. When the prosecutors tell them certain statistics or certain ideas they seem to decide that those are inflated/suppressed and investigate more. Compare this to the Police Detective with the suspect who makes eleven hours of statements saying he didn’t do something, and the final hour agreeing with the Detective that he did. Guess which statement goes in the police report. Think it doesn’t happen? Check out Jessie Miskelley and the West Memphis Three. Twenty years on Death Row, largely because the police didn’t believe the denials but chose to believe the confession; because the police wrote the confession. They accept answers they want to accept, when it matches their desire.
      5. I also think there might only be one or two people in the “group”. And while their one-sentence mission is powerful, the rest of the essay is paper thin.

The conversation
But to be very clear, it was a nice happy conversation. During the conversations I made some suggestions for what I think would help prosecute the crime of prostitution in the State of Hawaii, but that’s just me. Rather than let these vanish to our conversation, I wanted to put these out in the ether, and maybe a city councilperson can steal it and make something good with it.

This post is going to veer away from my usual topic, how great I am, and veer more into sentencing policy. What should a people think about when they’re setting a sentence.

[bar_info_box_3  text=”Serious about your goal: Study it!” /]

Changing individuals, changing society
First and foremost thing to remember: Punishment does not change behavior, Fear of punishment changes behavior.
Think about children you see and children you know. It is the ones who are threatened, or who get spanked only once in a great while that are best behaved. The children that are spanked for anything? Often the worst behaved. Why? It’s not the cycle of crime or violence. It is because the children that face punishment for everything, know there is no way to fix their behavior. Facing the inevitability of punishment there is no benefit to acting correctly. The outcome is the same. It is the fear of punishment (actually, fear of pain/discomfort, and punishment is controlled pain/discomfort) that causes beings to change their behavior.
As I explained to the representative of PASS, Increasing the penalty means nothing to the John, because they’re not afraid of the penalty, they feel they won’t get arrested. Increasing the threat of a subsequent penalty means everything to a john, because now you know exactly what is expected from you, and how real the punishment is.

Think of it like this: States with the death penalty do not have lower crime rates. People don’t say, “well, I would kill him, but that’s life in prison, so cause massive injury, and do 20”. People commit the crime and then regret the punishment.

The Goal: I still am a little suspicious about the true goal of the Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery. I really think it is to somehow get revenge on “johns”. This is not meant to be an attack, but it is based on how they handle their business and what they promote. My gut feeling is that actually repairing the prostitutes is a second place goal to punishing the johns involved. I explained to them, as I do to you now, my goal is to make life safe for the prostitutes, and I mean that in every way.

My main question to the person I met was this: “How is the law you’re promoting meant to help the girl you’re trying to protect.” i.e., how does a law that punishes Men worse stop an abusive John? How does it help that prostituted female receive medical or protective services from the government? It really doesn’t. But if that is what you’re concentrating your time on, what is your real goal? No matter what you’re stated goals are.

[bar_info_box_3  text=”So here is my Suggested solutions” /]

The first suggestion is Prostitution Court: Heard of Drug Court? We copied it and flipped it and went with girls court and soon to be announced Veteran’s court. Why not Prostitutes court. If you’ve completed prostitution court, your record becomes clean, and you’ve complete all the services that guarantee you’ll never do that again. Model it on Drug court. Solved. Women receive services they need, and once they complete those services they do not carry a conviction on their record.
Doesn’t this sound closer to the stated goal of helping trafficked women?

John School:
For the Johns, the End Demand is really about the dumbest bill I’ve heard of it awhile. From top to bottom, it is based on lies and does nothing to actually help prostitutes. Nothing. What it does is make a navy guy walking down the street with his buddies who yells at a passing streetwalker, “Hey, how much are YOU!” IT makes him face a stiffer sentence, destroys his career, and why? You tell me.

Instead of juicing up the penalty to the point where every John has to pay defense attorney a small mint, instead give them a chance to take it off their record. “What what WHAT!” I hear the members of PASS explode. Here’s why: The way they take it off their record is by attending “John School”. And guess who gets to set the criteria. How about the Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery? Sounds about right…

Remember what we said, Punishment does not change behavior, fear of punishment does. So the MOST important question in changing these laws is asking “Where is the fear coming from”. Because wherever that is, that is what is going to get the most attention from the John. If you juice the penalty, the fear is coming from the trial and the judge and the guilty verdict and they’ll spend their time and money to answer to fight the case. If the fear can be alleviated through erasing the conviction to the successful graduate through the proposed “John School” diversion program. Guess where ALL the energy goes, passing, learning and PARTICIPATING in the John School. And of course only once, if you’re likely to recommit no way do you get special dispensation.

Fear of the rod is a much better rod than the rod itself.


But by far, the most important point is that as long as a prostitute cannot be honest with a doctor about her job. As long as she cannot be honest with the police without admitting to a crime. As long as these things happen, you will almost never get her pimps. (They define a separate word as “abolition” on their website. It is a creative straw-man definition battle which is not relevant to this conversation.) Because:

      1. She has to expose herself to jail to get medical care.
      2. She has to expose herself to jail to get social services or police protection.
      3. If she gets immunity to help get the pimp, she is immediately suspect, because she is functionally saving her own butt from jail to incarcerate the pimp. Questionable motives is the #1 reason to disbelieve a witness! (I just made that up. But I’m sure it’s top five.)

So if your stated goal is to get a prostitute health care and social services or police protection or to get the actual traffickors rather than the traffickees, why are you not fighting the ONE thing that stands in the way of your stated goal?

The usual answer is because the stated goal is not the actual goal. The actual goal seems to be to punish men.
As my father would say, listen to what people say but let it go in one ear and out the other. It’s what they do that tells you who they are.

With any luck the next post in the series will be the final one, collecting various reactions I got from the community about my engagement with PASS about prostitution and human trafficking. I never meant for this to be a serious, simply an example of when 30 minutes of real legal research could do. (Honestly, more like 10 minutes). If you have something related to this you’d like me to say or read, please feel free, as always, to post below or mail it to me and I will keep it confidential.

And as always I invite PASS to respond, to any of the criticism, here, or if they feel more comfortable, they can address it in a forum they control. Or they can ignore it.
Or hell, let’s get two podiums and an audience. I feel froggy…

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