Here are 10 Ways YOU can get involved with SWOP Behind Bars on a Local or National level.
SWOP Behind Bars is the largest chapter of SWOPUSA and we create sex work positive programs, products and services to people who find themselves involved with the Criminal Justice system.
1- Donate money to fund our programs and projects! Your donation is tax deductible!
2 Buy a book from one of our custom Amazon Wish lists!
3 Become a Pen Pal!
4 Share your resources with SWOP Behind Bars! We gladly partner with like minded organizations and are always seeking community based organizations and individuals that can provide much needed resources for prisoners who are going to be released!
5 Donate GED Study Guides by the case to SWOP Behind Bars!
6 Support our college and paralegal scholarship programs!
7 Volunteer your time! We have lots of advocacy projects going throughout the United States so volunteer with us to answer our community support line, create amazon wishlists, update our ever growing database or prepare and send requested resources to our members behind bars.
8 Notify us when you hear that a sex worker has been arrested! We have a wide national network of advocates ready to assist!
9 Invite us to present at your conference or symposium! Our speakers bureau is professional and affordable and can train your group on harm reduction, sex worker led street outreach, sexual harassment in the sex trade and our powerful KNOW YOUR RIGHTS curriculum!
10 Support full decriminalization of consensual sex work in your community!
Thanks for reading, and we would love to involve you further in our endeavor! Please reach out to us if you have questions, ideas, contacts, or opportunities to share!
There are almost 6800 women who have been convicted and sentenced to a term of incarceration in Florida Prisons and another 38,000 women who are on state-supervised probation. Women make up approximately 7% of the Florida prison population with 144 of the incarcerated women are under the age of 21. Black and Hispanic women outnumber white women 3 to 1. Programs for women behind bars are very limited, inadequately funded, and mostly faith based. Re-entry services for women are pretty much limited to $50 and a bus ticket home, wherever that might be. While the biggest fear for a sex worker might be arrest, the biggest fear for women in prison is what will happen to them when they are released. These women return to their communities desperate and defined by their experience. There is virtually no housing for those recently release,d and they will be denied almost all public benefits because of their incarceration. ISome may be disconnected from their families, and they must find their own way to rebuild their lives. Sustainable employment is difficult to find, and they won’t be able to get a student loan in order to advance their education if they can’t or don’t want to engage in sex work. As advocates, it is our responsibility to offer our support and guidance.
No one really knows how many women who are imprisoned have been involved in the commercial sex industry, but some estimates are as high as 70%.It’s difficult to ignore the connections between the criminalization of sex work and its impact on the prison population. And when criminalization is combined with the ever present stigma and shame surrounding those engaged in sex work by choice or by force, women who have been incarcerated have virtually no opportunity to thrive on release. The stark lack of community and virtually no resources or support create a perfect storm where poverty and injustice lay in wait to further marginalize women who are released from prison.
The SWOP Behind Bars project at Lowell Correctional Institution is working to reach out to sex workers behind bars to – over time – create a sense of community and support. By donating books to the prison library, sending newsletters to those currently incarcerated, and building a nationwide network of sex worker supported letter writing, we can create a network that strengthens all of us. Women in prison who receive regular mail are envied, and it is the hope of SWOP Behind Bars to flood our sisters who are incarcerated with mail. We are currently working to integrate with other prison book donation organizations to duplicate our efforts nationwide.
This didn’t happen overnight and it’s not even an original idea. In the early days of sex work activism, Margo St James sued the state of California and loudly insisted on improving programs and services for women in prison. As the sex worker rights movement grew over the next 20 years and – thanks to social media – went mainstream in, we still loudly protest the criminalization of sex work and work diligently to minimize the danger. There are still so many sex workers in prison, and they need to know we are here for them. Many do not identify as sex workers, and yet it only takes a cursory investigative search of the Department of Corrections websites to recognize that there is a large incidence of prostitution convictions. Women in prison do not know about the vibrant sex worker community that is rising up in the US, and we think they should. Those of us who live in the free world have connected with each other on the outside through social media and through the organized efforts of sex worker rights organizations. We have shared our experiences and our knowledge with each other on Facebook, Instagram, Tumbr and Twitter. We have art shows, operas, and international days we recognize together. We have at last created our own community that – for the most part – has given some of us a solidarity that is unprecedented. We even have our own insignia…the Red Umbrella. Now we need to get back to our roots and reach out to those behind bars because that is where those who have suffered the most from criminalization reside.
Reading books is a popular prison past time, and unless you have someone sending reading material inside, one is limited to what is in the prison library limited to what was left behind by others, legal books, and a flurry of faith-based material.
Our goal is to provide books that will improve the lives of prisoners, to provide educational resources, and to help reduce the likelihood of their returning to the prison system. Our communities fare better when prisoners returning to society have had an opportunity to learn, grow, and mature as individuals. Books provide the inspiration and knowledge for that growth. And books provided by sex workers, about sex workers, for sex workers, and to sex workers are the greatest way we can invite them to participate in our community and let them tell us how we can improve our efforts to make sure that they have the tools to develop the best version of themselves.
Already the Lowell Correctional Facility for Women has been inundated with books donated by authors and individuals that tell about our history, our stories, and our hopes for the future. The generosity of the sex worker community has been overwhelming. Each book donated will have a label placed inside that will identify our community and let them know how to reach out to us by phone and by mail. The SWOP Community Support has been activated with a new flock of enthusiastic volunteers to answer calls. SWOP Behind Bars fourth newsletter will be completed in the next few weeks and will be mailed to more than 300 recipients who live in prisons throughout the United States. In previous newsletters, we have asked them to write to us and tell us their stories, and they have. We hoped they would organize support groups inside the prison, and they have! We have provided them with evidence-based material so they can learn more about sex worker rights and about themselves and they are asking questions. We are also working to create re-entry support services to support those released to accomplish the goals they set for themselves and locate the resources they need. We have seen the sex worker community will join us enthusiastically in reaching out to sex workers behind bars, and here are 10 ways you can help.