Current Status on Prostitution in Rhode Island

Rhode Island

Since the end of the legislative session not much has happened.  Reports have said that the State Police and the Governor’s Office have been working on a new prostitution law, but both Representative JoAnne Gianinni and Senator Paul Jabour have said they have not seen the legislation yet.  I personally do not know how far the State Police and the Governor’s office have gotten on the bill, both have more pressing issues to deal with.  The Governor is dealing with his face off with the Unions,debating the fur-low or 1,000 worker layoff.  Now the State Police have to deal with one of its troopers beating up a Providence Cop.  Bad publicity and national headlines for both the Governor and the State Police.

Just a week ago Senator Paul Jabour and Micheal McCaffery wrote an Op Ed in the Providence Journal defending their bill.  In the letter they write:

We must delineate the lines that have been blurred among the problems of indoor prostitution, outdoor prostitution, human sex trafficking, and strip-club dancing by minors. Each of these issues has an appropriate legal and moral response and confusing them will lead to ineffective policies and political responses.

The woman who blurs these lines, Donna Hughes of Citizens Against Trafficking, blasted back at Jabour and McCaffery with her own Op Ed entitled “Senator’s Prostitution Bill is a Sham”

RHODE ISLAND needs a good prostitution law to halt the metastasizing problems of prostitution and sex trafficking. The growing number of spas and clubs are sordid destinations for foreign women and teens from around the Northeast. .. Contrary to the claim made by Senators Paul Jabour (D.-Providence) and Michael McCaffrey (D.-Warwick) in their Aug. 31 Commentary piece, the Senate bill does not “close the loophole.”

In order for a prostitution bill to pass, it must be the same on the House and the Senate side.  If the Governor and Police do actually submit a bill, Senator Jabour will need to sign off on it.  I can’t imagine he really wants to do any favors for Hughes, who has been dragging his name through the mud.  (She has published this op-ed in several local papers)

After all of these back and forth op eds, Senator Levesque jumped into the action and wrote his own titled “Anti-prostitution law means more deaths”  Opening up with the line “We have once again been treated to Donna Hughes slender relationship with truth.”  (Nice way to put it!)

With all this infighting, and the prostitution legislation pretty much grinding to a halt, Providence Mayor David Cicilline decided to get into the fray.  Mayor Cicilline has submitted an ordinance to be considered at Thursdays at the City meeting.  If found guilty, those accused would face, for each offense, a $500 fine and/or imprisonment of up to 30 days, which is the maximum penalty allowable for municipal-level violations (the proposed ordinance would be adjudicated by the Municipal Court, but I wonder where they would house those found guilty, Providence doesn’t have any prisons). I don’t know how legal this ordinance is because it is in the massage ordinance, so essentially they will only be going after the massage parlors and if that isn’t selective enforcement I don’t know what is?!? (Selective enforcement is one of the reasons RI doesn’t have a prostitution law today)

Personally, I think there isn’t much political reason to pass a prostitution law this year.  Next year is an election year, so this year doesn’t count for much.  With the state in such economic shambles, the Governor going to court every other day to fight the state workers, the 60 million budget shortfall, I think the prostitution law will stop being front page news.  Besides, RI doesn’t have the money to implement it. When I was asked back in the beginning of June if a prostitution law was going to pass this year, I though the odds were 80/20 that it was going to pass.  Now I think it is 70/30 that it will not. (Not this year, but when January rolls around I will put the odds back at 80/20)

Also if you follow the links to the articles, be sure to read the comments by local Rhode Islanders.  There is not one that supports changing the law.

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One response to “Current Status on Prostitution in Rhode Island

  1. I would favor the state funding a hotline that would take reports of violence or exploitation and give referrals and when appropriate have the police follow up on specific complaints.
    That would accomplish more than raids on the most conspicuous ‘spas’.
    But do we have the political will to help people who’ve been trafficked? Rescuing ‘illegals’ from forced labor of any kind takes commitment.

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