A bill to ban arrests for “loitering with the intent of prostitution” was sent to the Governor’s desk on Monday, nine months after both houses of the state legislature first passed it.
Senate Bill 357, authored by Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), would repeal all laws prohibiting loitering in a public place with the intent to commit prostitution, or directing, supervising, recruiting, or aiding a person who is loitering with the intent to commit prostitution, or collecting or receiving all or part of the proceeds of an act of prostitution. In addition, those who have been convicted of loitering with the intent to commit prostitution can petition the court for dismissal and sealing of their offense or get it resentenced.
Senator Wiener had written the bill because the bill is discriminatory towards, and un fairly targets, black women, Latino women, and those who are transgender. When he introduced SB 357 last year, he also said that criminalizing sex workers does not make communities safer, that they do nothing to stop sex crimes against sex workers, and that sex workers deserve to be treated with dignity and respect too.
“We’re experiencing a terrifying epidemic of violence against trans women of color, and we need to be proactive in improving their safety,” explained Senator last year in a statement. “Our laws should protect the LGBTQ community and communities of color, and not criminalize sex workers, trans people and Brown and Black people for quite literally walking around or dressing in a certain way. New York has led the way, and shown that it’s far past time we end this discriminatory targeting of suspected sex workers. We must stop enabling law enforcement to harass trans women of color on our streets. We need to stand with trans women of color and sex workers, and stand with all people fighting for autonomy and safety and against racist and transphobic discrimination.”
Critics have noted that legalized prostitution without penalties actually drastically increases human trafficking, with the bill adding to California’s string of arrest deductions that have led to an explosion of crime in cities statewide. Others worry that SB 357 could also lead to decriminalization of prostitution in the future.
“This bill seems to be perfect if you want sex trafficking to even increase in California,” said California Family Council spokesman Greg Burt. “This bill is really going to affect poor neighborhoods — it’s not going to affect neighborhoods where these legislators live.”
Frank Ma, a former police officer turned security consultant in San Francisco, added in a Globe interview that “This bill is reckless and dangerous. We’ve seen the correlation between reducing prostitution laws and higher crime rates, especially human trafficking, for some time now. This bill has nothing to do with discrimination or trying to make our cities safer like [Wiener] is claiming. It can only lead to more crime, which is exactly the last thing California needs right now.”
A nine month wait of being sent to Governor Newsom
Despite the heavy opposition, SB 357 passed both houses last year. While Republicans from both houses totally opposed it, with many Democrats joining the GOP leaders in either voting no or abstaining, the bill still ultimately passed, with the final Senate vote coming to 26-9 with 5 abstentions and the Assembly vote coming to a narrow 41-29 with 10 abstentions.
“Today we’re sending to the Governor SB 357, which passed last year,” tweeted Senator Wiener on Monday. “SB 357 repeals the crime “loitering w/ intent to commit prostitution.” An officer can arrest someone based on how they look. Arrests target trans women/women of color. Time to repeal it.”
Today we’re sending to the Governor SB 357, which passed last year.
SB 357 repeals the crime “loitering w/ intent to commit prostitution.” An officer can arrest someone based on how they look. Arrests target trans women/women of color.
Time to repeal it. https://t.co/fiyK3gXh4S
— Senator Scott Wiener (@Scott_Wiener) June 20, 2022
“This seems risky,” added Ma. “Wiener seems to know that his window for getting this through is closing and that that understanding he wanted in the last nine months just did not come what with all the worry against crime. Now, a lot of vulnerable lawmakers this election have their reputations on the line by having their name attached to the vote on this. And so does Newsom. He’s kind of a shoe-in, but if he signs this, [GOP Gubernatorial candidate] Dahle will have a really good piece of evidence to hammer in how weak Newsom is on crime. Wiener may have waited until after the primary to send this up, in fact, he probably did, but it is still very risky to sign this.”
As of Monday afternoon, Governor Newsom has not said whether or not he would sign the bill into law.
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