Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Sex Offender Registration for Sex Workers Ends in Louisiana

Louisiana's era of forcing certain convicted sex workers to register as sex offenders appears to be over. Governor Jindall's office announced today that he had signed into law a bill, sponsored by Louisiana State Representative Charmaine Marchand Stiaes, that effectively moves prostitution convictions back to the level of misdemeanor.

Previously, police officers and prosecutors in Louisiana had a choice between charging accused sex workers under the prostitution law, which was a misdemeanor, or under Louisiana's 200-plus year-old "Crime Against Nature" law, a felony. That law was interpreted to apply specifically to solicitation for oral or anal sex, but in practice it meant police had ultimate discretion on who to charge with the greater offense.

The majority sentenced under the law were indigent women of color and transgender women of color. Once convicted, they were also forced to register as sex offenders, which brought a long list of restrictions and requirements, including having the words "sex offender" printed in large letters on their driver's license, and the obligation to send a post card to all of their neighbors informing everyone of their conviction.

The new law does not eliminate the "Crime Against Nature" category entirely, but it makes the penalties equal to the misdemeanor-level prostitution charge.

While police continue to harass sex workers across the state, and many women are still imprisoned under these regressive laws (even as US Senator David Vitter faced no penalty for his admitted liaisons with prostitutes), this is a step forward. And much credit should go to the NO Justice Project, convened by Women With A Vision, which worked to raise awareness about this unjust law and fought on multiple fronts to bring it to an end.

In a statement from the NO Justice Project released after the law was signed, Davida Finger, Assistant Clinical Professor at Loyola said, “We welcome this change in the law, which finally brings Louisiana in line with every other state in the country. But the injustice still persists. Almost 40 percent of registered sex offenders in New Orleans are on the registry because of a Solicitation of a Crime Against Nature (SCAN) conviction. They too should receive the benefit of this change in the law and be removed from the sex offender registry.”

Women With A Vision Executive Director Deon Haywood added, "We will continue to fight for justice for all those still living under the penalties of the past. There is still serious work to be done.”

“The grassroots and national leadership of Women with a Vision in tirelessly raising this issue for the past three years is nothing short of heroic,” said Andrea Ritchie, co-counsel in Doe v. Jindal, police misconduct attorney and expert on U.S. policing of women and LGBT people. “This victory is a product of collaboration between community groups, legal advocacy organizations and legislators seeking justice on behalf of the women and LGBT youth suffering from the discriminatory effects of SCAN – it is clear that community organizing can make real change.”

Women With A Vision urges those who have SCAN charges on their record and currently are on the registry to contact them at 504.301.0428.

Photo Above: Women With A Vision Executive Director Deon Haywood.


Nola Anarcha said...

*A sigh of relief*

Will this be retroactive to get women convicted of this off the sex offender lists?

Anonymous said...

thank god. not a day too soon. shoulda been criminal to begin with.

kevin said...

There are so many stupid laws on the books

Rebecca said...

My name is Rebecca and I am an intern at Teen Voices , a magazine which seeks to support and educate teen girls to amplify their voices and create social change through media. This new law is great for women and great for the state of Louisiana. I can only hope that women already imprisoned under the regressive law will be served justice.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad that you got this unjust so-called law off the books. I hope you will be successful in getting those women off the sex-offender list.

Ryan said...

Hi, I'm sorry if this is not the appropriate space to ask this, but I can't figure out how to send you a personal message.

Would you consider giving me permission to repost this at my blog, Beyond Bryn Mawr (http://beyondbrynmawr.wordpress.com/)? I would, of course, give you full credit and link back to your post and this blog.

I agree that law is a step forward, and I would like to share this post, and its information, with others. Thank you.

Editor said...

Ryan: Yes, you may post on your blog with link and credit to this blog. Thanks for asking.

License to Pimp said...

This is a HUGE victory for sex workers and women to not have to parade around with a scarlet letter on their body forever marking them. It allows people privacy in the bedroom and the ability to change their lives around if they want without their history being publicized. It'll mean that they aren't as ostracized by society, which still remains hostile to sex workers having rights.

Plz check out my blog on sex workers' labor conditions: http://licensetopimp.wordpress.com/

& my documentary LICENSE TO PIMP about strippers & illegal conditions they work under: http://licensetopimp.com/

Middy said...

This is good news. A sex offender is someone who commits unconsented sexual acts against another, the law has no place in the bedroom of two consenting adults. So what is the penalty for a "misdemeanor-level prostitution charge"? Is this still a jailable offence?