Why is the Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP) Behind Bars? To go BEYOND BARS with community allied empowerment efforts!

SWOP Behind Bars (SBB) provides community support for incarcerated sex workers.

We work to support and build relationships with individuals most affected by prostitution and trafficking laws, providing incarcerated sex workers with essential empowerment information, linkages to individualized and comprehensive case management, plus skills they need to become involved community, leaders and – if they desire – partners in the sex worker rights movement.

We call attention to – and are working hard to deescalate – the violence, stigma, and discrimination that occur against sex workers that are perpetuated by the criminalization of prostitution.

How? Well – We provide a monthly newsletter, books, study materials, and sex worker pen pals for incarcerated sex workers. Upon release from jail or prison, we help sex workers meet their basic needs, and we provide resources, networking, and linkages for successful reentry into their communities.

Did you know? There are more than one million women currently behind bars in the U.S.  That number is on the rise.  In fact, women are the fastest growing segment of the prison population in the country, and the rate of incarceration for women has been growing nearly twice as fast as that of men since 1985. According to the ACLU, women account for about 7% of the total prison population in the U.S.  The fastest growing population behind bars is black women.

Prostitution is one of the few crimes where women are arrested more frequently than men, but prostitution alone does not explain the growing numbers of Black, Latino, and trans-women behind bars.

Sex workers are often subject to the same “revolving door” punitive approach that people convicted of drug offenses receive; women do time, though rarely receive the resources, social, economic and, psychological support that would enable them to leave the industry if they choose. Diversion programs such as LEAD and Rescue based intervention often enable as opposed to empowering women in the sex trade by defining them as victims of their own lives and circumstance.

By decriminalizing both the buying and selling of sexual and therapeutic erotic services we can focus our efforts on those who truly need assistance and making other avenues of employment available, including for trans women.

With these efforts, we can reduce sexual violence in the US, ameliorate conditions for a marginalized portion of the population, and destigmatize what is a reality for many women.