Reintroduction of jail for prostitutes?

Under current UK law, courts do not have the power to jail prostitutes for soliciting, even though it is illegal. However, soliciting could once again become a prisonable offence if the proposed Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill becomes law. The new Bill makes it possible for courts to order persons convicted of loitering and soliciting to attend three, one-hour counselling sessions to: (a) “address the causes of the conduct constituting the offence; and (b) find ways to cease engaging in such conduct in the future”. Prostitutes who fail to attend their counselling sessions may be jailed for up to seventy-two hours. Regardless of how one feels about prostitution, it seems the proposal is laughable. The reasons why people become prostitutes are many and various. Many sex workers are dependent on drugs and alcohol; have little prospect of further employment; and have families to support. Three hours of counselling is very unlikely to make a difference to their lives. To give some perspective: friends of mine who work with homeless drug addicts – many of whom are prostitutes – tell me that two years of support is the minimum required to get someone off the street, into a house, and maintaining control over their drug use. But much more support is needed for that person to get to the point where they are no longer dependent on drugs, have stable accommodation, a steady, legitimate income, and so on. Given this, the counselling sessions and three-day jail term for non-attendance amount to nothing more than legal harrassment of some of the most vulnerable and marginalised members of society. A fact recognised by Napo – the probation service union – which has urged MPs to delete the proposals from the Bill when it is debated in the Commons on the 9th January.

2 thoughts on “Reintroduction of jail for prostitutes?

  1. I agree that imprisonment for non-attendance is a downright bad idea. But if the b) part of the above involves getting the women, or men, in touch with the relevant agencies that can start the 2 yr process of getting out of prostitution, that seems like a good thing. ADmittedly, I haven’t properly read the linked document, so don’t know if this is what was in mind…

  2. A good way to slap prostitutes with a court fine that they will have to work to pay off and a record that could count against them if they try to reenter mainstream society, but likely not a good way to turn their life around in 3 magical hours of counseling. A true inquiry into an individual’s life, background, and realistic prospects for the future takes at least 3 hours. It’s more like a comedy sketch than a realistic approach.

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