Creating Community for Incarcerated Sex WorkersA chapter of the Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP)
SWOP Behind Bars is a national social justice network dedicated to the fundamental human rights of people who face discrimination from the criminal justice system due to the stigma associated with the sex trade. We advocate for full decriminalization of consensual sex work, ending cash bail, drawing attention to the effects of generational poverty on sexualized violence against marginalized and vulnerable women while providing services and support with a focus on ending violence and stigma through education and advocacy.
Why is the Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP) Behind Bars?
Since the Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP) “Behind Bars” inception in May 2016, SWOP Behind Bars (SBB) has sent out over 15000 newsletters to prisoners in 14 states. We have coordinated over 2000 pen pals. We have coordinated more than 20000 books through Amazon Wish Lists, 3000 book donations, and approximately 450 GED self-study guides to prisoners and prison libraries. We have funded 9 college level scholarships and presented at human rights conferences and rallies. We have provided reentry support for 120 recently released prisoners and we have written a reentry guide to help incarcerated people transition back to their community. We have fiscally sponsored 4 other like-minded organizations. We have a diverse Board of Directors that includes people who have been and still are incarcerated. We support men, women and trans folks.
Why is SWOP Behind Bars? There are more than 200,000 women currently behind bars in the U.S., and that number is on the rise. In fact, women are the fastest growing segment of the prison population in the country. The rate of incarceration for women has been growing nearly twice as fast as that of men since 1985, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and 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. If we are going to make reforms to crimes based on morality, we need to consider laws that disproportionately affect women, such as the prohibition of sex work. Sex workers are often subject to the same “revolving door” punitive approach that people convicted of drug offenses receive; women do time, but never receive the resources, social, economic and, psychological support that would enable them to leave the industry if they choose. We don’t often consider that sex work can be an intentional choice. Whether or not it is a symptom of poor economic conditions or volition it is always considered inherently immoral.
In order to address this we need to widen the discussion to include issues that Black, Latino, and trans women are disproportionately affected by. The illegal purchasing of sex is ultimately what sustains the market and forces sex work underground. The stigma has to be removed around the discussion of sex work in order to protect the human rights and, as recently suggested by Amnesty International (AI), the dignity of the women in it who often need access to housing and, health care. By decriminalizing both the buying and selling of sex we can focus our efforts on those who truly need assistance and making other avenues of employment available, especially for trans women. Laws prohibiting sex work are based on a moral code that doesn’t fully consider the implications. If we are going to reform non-violent crimes like drug use and selling that are founded on societal beliefs, we also need to consider other non-violent crimes, regardless of stigma and moral objections. The question of decriminalization or legalization cannot be limited to marijuana, but needs to be expanded to encompass sex work. We need to rethink the way we currently differentiate and treat between violent and non-violent persons convicted of offenses and push for decriminalization of sex work and the correlation to decreasing crimes against women; these progressive reforms normalize and regulate sex work rather than further stigmatizing and conflating an underground industry with human trafficking. 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.
The DOC noted that inmates will continue to have access to libraries that average about 15,000 titles each, though some inmates say that they find it difficult to make it to the library and prefer not to check out books for fear of being disciplined over late returns. Sean Damon of Amistad Law Project, which led protests over the book prohibition, expressed relief. “From our perspective, it looks like the DOC did the right thing,” Damon said. But, he added, he’s not satisfied, as other new security measures — including the scanning and surveillance of incoming mail, and the photocopying of inmate legal mail — remain in place.read more
Billy Penn dot com: Philly got a $4 million MacArthur Foundation Grant – On top of Philly news The city will use it to continue criminal justice reform efforts, including reducing the prison population.read more
apple.news/AKDfreXliTfmWZvYmrIzQVw You buy a purse at Walmart. There’s a note inside from a “Chinese prisoner.” Now what? By Rosalyn A. Warren Tracing a mysterious message across the world to understand how what we buy is made. When Christel Wallace found a piece of...read more
FAMM is having a “Watch Party Week” 10/15-10/19, and challenging people to host a few friends and family members to watch the film at their home. Post it on social media – live tweet, Facebook live, etc. – so as many people get exposed to the powerful message behind the film as possible! FAMM will have graphics and tool kits available for those who host a party!read more
2,700 Philadelphians are serving life without parole. Will they get a chance at redemption? – On top of Philly news. “You’re in there to die,” she said. “This is wrong.” – Billy PENN for com