Vance appeared along with Abigail Swenstein of the Legal Aid Society on Wednesday before Judge Charlotte Davidson, who granted Vance’s requests.
“We welcome this action to dismiss all pending prostitution and unlicensed massage-related cases as well as his new policy to decline to prosecute these arrests going forward,” said Swenstein, who works with the society’s exploitation intervention project. “However, this policy should not supplant the need to pass legislation that would fully decriminalize sex work and provide for criminal record relief for people convicted of prostitution offense.”
Vance’s measures also were applauded by several state and national anti-human-trafficking organizations.
“Black, Brown and East Asian women and girls, immigrants, and LGBTQ people have been disproportionately harmed by these laws,” said representatives of the New York State Anti-Trafficking Coalition, in a joint statement. “Manhattan is the first borough to make the critical connection that using ‘unlicensed practice of a profession’ is a charge that is often used to make arrests in massage businesses.”
“Too often survivors end up in jail or with a criminal record because of things their traffickers or abusers force them to do,” said Anita Teekah of the anti-trafficking program at Safe Horizon, the nation’s largest victim’s services agency. “That’s not right. The announcement by the Manhattan district attorney is an important step forward and will mean fewer survivors end up in the criminal legal system.”
“This resolute action to actively decriminalize sex workers is the kind of change our community has been hoping for, advocating for, for decades,” said Cecilia Gentili, founder of Transgender Equity Consulting. ”This initiative to end the prosecution of people who are simply trying to work to survive through a depressed economy, and to immediately dismiss the almost 6,000 bench warrants for loitering, prostitution, and non-licensed massages is one of the most significant steps taken nationally in the effort to stop criminalizing sex work.”