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Top Brooklyn prosecutor endorses decriminalizing prostitution

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District Attorney Eric Gonzalez has joined a growing movement in New York

WIktor Szymanowicz/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez announced Friday he is in favor of decriminalizing prostitution — and open to legalizing the practice outright — joining a growing chorus of New York prosecutors who say punishing sex workers is counterproductive.

What are the details?

Speaking at a "Decriminalizing Queerness Forum" for the Lambda Independent Democrats of Brooklyn, N.Y., Gonzalez said, "I believe in decriminalization," explaining how his office currently requires sex workers to enroll in services following arrest, before dismissing their cases altogether, Gay City News reported.

According to the New York Post, Gonzalez added, "There is no prosecution. No one goes to jail."

The Brooklyn DA's "soft prosecution" of hookers is similar to policies across New York City, where prosecutors increasingly direct sex workers to seek assistance rather than putting them behind bars.

A spokeswoman for Manhattan DA Cy Vance Jr. told the Post, "Our policy is to ensure that those engaged in prostitution are not further marginalized by having a criminal record. In Manhattan, every person arrested for prostitution is offered services through community-based organizations."

The DAs in the Bronx, Queens, and Staten Island also have similar policies.

Gonzalez said he would be fine with prostitution being legalized, as long as sex traffickers could still be prosecuted because that's "obviously a big issue."

But, he told forum, "What I heard today has me thinking that the way we are dealing with trafficking cases is not effective," The Daily Mail reported. "If people are afraid they are going to get arrested, maybe something outside of the justice system is better. I'm open to that."

The Post reported that prostitution arrests in New York City dropped from around 4,000 in 2012 to roughly 1,500 in 2018.

Anything else?

Sex workers and their advocates have been pushing to legalize prostitution for years, in a growing movement aimed at ending the stigma surrounding those in the trade. According to NPR, "many activists and academics say decriminalization would help protect sex workers, and would even be a public health benefit."

Politicians have started to take notice in New York and beyond.

Democratic presidential hopefuls Sen. Kamala Harris (Calif.) and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii) have both said they support decriminalizing sex work, The Intercept reported.

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