According to the report Effective Approaches for Reducing Prostitution, Texas sends more people convicted of prostitution to prison than most other states, and is the only state in the country to charge those engaging in prostitution with a felony.
Dr Ana Yanez-Correa is executive director of the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition and author of the report.
“These people are victims, and we’ve got to create a place for them to get out of that, so that they can fully realize their life, so they don’t have to go to the extent that they have gone through to get money you know, for survival.”
The world’s oldest profession was criminalized after WWII when lawmakers wanted to stem the spread of sexually transmitted diseases among soldiers.
Latest figures show that there are 350 people are currently serving time for prostitution, mostly from Dallas and Houston.
Houston state Sen. John Whitmire has long argued that prostitution is not a felony.
“I think it would make more sense to save that space for violent offenders and help them with the re-entry program. It would be much more cost-effective for the state to handle that nuisance like that, than locking them up in a maximum security prison. I mean, it’s just common sense.”
Janell Robles is policy analyst for the Harris County Criminal Justice Project. She says diversion programs would go a long way in helping to reduce the problem.
“Treatment is the more humane and cost-effective way to deal with these non-violent individuals. It addresses the root causes, and it also proves that it lowers recidivism rates, the rates of re-offending.”
A diversion program is included in legislation being considered in Austin that would also extend funding for the Texas Attorney General’s office to prosecute sex traffickers.