Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr., announced Wednesday that his office will no longer prosecute a number of prostitution-related offenses, and he additionally moved to dismiss convictions and bench warrants for thousands of cases related to those offenses, many of which went back to the 1970s and 1980s.
According to NPR, Vance stated that his office would no longer prosecute charges for prostitution, loitering for the purpose of prostitution, and unlicensed practice of the massage profession, which has historically been used to bust prostitutes. All told, his office moved to dismiss almost 6,000 related cases where the “top-line” offense was one of these three charges, including for a number of defendants who had outstanding bench warrants for these crimes dating back to the 1970s and 1980s. The anti-loitering statute in question was repealed in February.
Vance claimed that part of the reason that his office would no longer prosecute these crimes is that they had historically had a “disproportionate impact” on the LGBTQ community, and that it served to “further marginalize” these “vulnerable populations,” according to NPR.
The statement also noted that charges can still be brought against individuals who are arrested for prostitution if they are found guilty of other crimes during the course of their arrest.
Sex worker advocates have been pushing for the decriminalization of prostitution for a number of years, and have recently seen increased success in their efforts. Earlier this year, Baltimore District Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced that her office would no longer prosecute prostitution, and the New York state assembly is considering a bill that would decriminalize prostitution statewide.
Just a few short years ago, Democratic Governor Eliot Spitzer was forced out of office when it was revealed that he had patronized a prostitution ring in New York.