Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Don't Panic - PLAN

We hope to eventually implement a Phoenix based PLAN complete with emergency phone number that any local sex worker can call collect in case of arrest.

If an arrest occurs in our community how will we respond? Often when a support sex worker gets arrested, s/he loses contact with his/her friends and support network. This is often because of the misguided notion that if one person is in trouble, his/her friends are also at risk. This is simply not true when dealing with state-level misdemeanors.

An arrest is an opportunity for us to unify and take action against the system that oppresses us. We can strengthen our community by demonstrating support for our colleague in need, we can get our messaging out into the media and we can prevent further intrusions by observing the legal process directly as it relates to sex workers.

We are a mixed group of people. Some are extremely private and concerned about confidentiality. Others choose to take extra precautions, but also are willing to speak publicly either as a sex worker or as an advocate for the rights of sex workers. In the event of an arrest within our community, having an emergency response plan in place will make it possible for people in all areas of the privacy continuum to actively participate in a pro-active approach to dealing with risk.

I’m going to make a brief outline of how this system can work and I’m curious to see what direction others may like to take it in. Please respond back with any questions/concerns you have so that we can modify and develop this into a realistic peer support project.

Phase 1: Individual Emergency Plan
If an individual in our community gets arrested, there will be some essential immediate tasks that they will need somebody to deal with. I’m going to try to summarize an example of how an Emergency Response (ER) can deal with these issues…
Kandie has one daughter named Rachel, a parakeet and a Golden Retriever. Her partner, Steve, lives in another town about 30 mins away. She lives in an apartment in the Sunset and works nearby in a separate location. On Tuesdays, her daughter gets out of school at 3pm and has soccer practice from 4pm-5:30pm. The dog stays in the house all day and she lets him out to relieve himself once every two hours. The parakeet is fine in his cage for a day or two as long as his food and water are full.
On a  Tuesday afternoon Kandie has a meeting with a new client at 10 am, then she plans to take her dog for a walk, stop by the post office to post bills, take a steak out of the freezer to thaw for dinner, and head over to the school to pick up Rachel, prepare her a snack and take her to soccer practice.
Unfortunately, the 10am appt turned out to be a sting, despite the fact that Kandie got a reference. Kandie is arrested and her in-call location gets destroyed while the police dig around for evidence. Fortunately, Kandie didn’t keep her computer, cell phone or other records in her space. By 12 noon, Kandie is in the back of a cop car being transported to 850 Bryant.
After being processed, Kandie is permitted to make one call. She calls the number that she has memorized, it is the home phone number of her trusted friend Angela. Angela answers and Kandie only has to say that she’s been picked up and Angela knows exactly what steps to take because they worked out their emergency response plan in advance.
Angela looks at her ER schedule and sees that Rachel is out of school at 3pm and has soccer from 4-5:30pm. Angela has enough time to pick Rachel up from school, get her a snack, grab the out-going mail and walk with the dog to the park where Rachel’s practice is held. However, she’s working the 6-11pm shift at the Lusty Lady and can’t afford to take the night off. She calls Steve to let him know what’s happening. He says he can leave work early and meet them at the park by 5pm so that Angela can get to work on time. He has an early meeting the next morning, so Angela will need to come back after her shift and spend the night so that she can get Rachel off to school in the morning.
During this time, Angela and Steve have told Rachel whatever story Kandie prepared in advance (maybe out of town for work, dealing with family emergency, maybe the truth, etc) They worked as a team to ensure that Rachel’s day was not seriously disrupted in order to minimize the stress and confusion that Rachel may be experiencing with her mother’s abrupt absence.
Since Kandie knew her rights, she told the arresting officers and all of the officers at the jail that she would like to remain silent and would like to see her lawyer. The officers don’t like people who invoke their rights and they decide to fuck with her. So they keep her in overnight. Luckily, Angela had the phone number to Kandie’s lawyer and called her immediately after speaking to Kandie. Kandie’s lawyer meets with her in jail and gets her out asap.
While Kandie was in jail, she knew that her child and pets were being well cared for by her loved ones. Since she didn’t have to worry about Rachel and the pets, she was able to focus on her situation. She requested a piece of paper and pencil, which she’s entitled to by state law and she writes down every detail she can remember of the entire arrest- including the badge number of the officer who called her a skank and said “Women like you are trash.” Her very detailed notes will be useful to her lawyer during phase 2 of the ER plan.
When Kandie gets out she has just enough time to go home and shower and then pic Rachel up at school on Wednesday. Rachel is happy to see her and Kandie chooses how much of the story, if any, she’s going to tell her. Kandie has a court date in a  couple days and has to choose whether to plea guilty to disturbing the peace or to fight the charges and demand her jury of peers.

Phase 2: Court Support/Teamwork
Kandie knows that the charges are bogus and that the SFPD will have a very difficult time finding a jury in SF that will actually find her guilty. She’s not ashamed of what she does for a living and has told her loved ones what she does, so she’s not afraid to fight the charges. Despite feeling confident, Kandie knows that this will be a difficult and humiliating process, so she activates the Emergency Response Network for support.
Once kandie knew her court date and details, she called the first number on her ER phone tree. She gave all of the details to that person, who then called the next person on the list, and so on and so on. The members of the ER team who have time will sit in court with her when she enters her plea. They will also be available to help get Rachel to/from school if court dates conflict with her schedule. Whike this form of support will not necessarily change the outcome of kandie’s sentencing, she will feel stronger and less humiliated when her peers are present to provide moral support.
Kandie’s lawyer will determine whether or not direct action is useful in this case. Direct action would include things such as writing letters to the editor to express outrage at kandie’s arrest, asking people in the community to write letters to Kandie’s judge that express why she’s a good person and model citizen to demonstrate the absurdity of trying her, etc. Each different case will need to have a different direct action plan based on the circumstances of the case, the preferences of the defendant, and the recommendations of the lawyer.

-Individual Plan
*Be strong!
*Take legal trainings, know your rights and BE PREPARED!
*Identify your emergency point people
*Create list of priorities for what needs to be cared for in your absense
*Create schedule of children’s activities, pet feeding, plant watering, etc.
*Memorize emergency point people’s phone numbers
*Know who your lawyer will be or make preparations for dealing with a public defender
*Have plan for what you will tell your kids/parents/lovers/etc in the event of an arrest
*Put aside money to live on while potentially being unable to work
-Court Support
*Make contact with other sex workers in your region
*Participate and Develop ER phone tree/email lists, then distribute phone tree to all participants
*Develop court support plans
*Follow through with ER plan (make phone calls, attend court hearing, attend meetings, etc.)

Screening 101

Reprinted from SWOP-Chicago

These are a few of my favorite things…

1) Ask for a business or other published number, and check the number in www.whitepages.com (reverse phone) or Google it to verify it. Call at an agreed-upon time under an agreed-upon method – for example, “Anne calling from Dr. Levin’s office to confirm an appointment.”

2) Some clients are high-profile, so you can verify them by Googling them or looking at a company directory. In that case, a business number isn’t necessary (although you may want to call to make certain the man who contacted you actually is the one who works there). You verify the company is legit by double-checking it at Dun & Bradstreet: http://www.dnb.com/us/.

3) Often times, people e-mail you from their company addresses, which are often the same addresses as their homepages. When a client is self-employed, and has a website, do a WHOIS search of the website URL here, which spits out the registrant info: http://www.networksolutions.com/whois/index.jhtml

If it’s an international client, you can do an international WHOIS here.

If neither of the above are convenient, then:

4) Two recent references from other independent workers, always getting a physical description from them to make sure he isn’t “borrowing” a buddy’s reference. (Kelly notes that sometimes a physical description is not possible due to limitations of memory.  I prefer asking for a memorable detail, for example something we discussed or what I wore for the date)

There are 3rd party reference and screening services too:

Other background-checking methods:
*Attorneys can be found on http://www.findlaw.com/
*Doctors can be found on http://www.ama-assn.org/
*Licensed brokers can be found here:
*Verify a business website, how long it’s been in existence, etc:
Backcheck info against:  http://www.nsopr.gov/

It goes with out saying: don’t leave this information lying around on your computer or in a little black book. Delete it after you’ve had your session. Invest in an overwriting program like this one:

You can call the hotel front desk and ask them to connect you to the name that the person registered under.  And of course, if you don’t ask to see ID, all of this is moot.

Bad client lists:
http://www.mypinkbook.com/ (Bay Area-based, have to be a “heart” who contributes regularly)
http://www.thebluepond.net/ (Ladies Only)
http://www.bigdoggie.net/ (Ladies Only – need to be a member and have bigdoggie.net link on front page of website)
http://www.captain69.co.uk/ (Escorts Only section; e-mail for access)
Another people-info database: http://www.intellius.com/

Thursday, February 24, 2011

SWOP Las Vegas denounces Senator Reid’s call to eliminate Nevada brothels

The Sex Workers Outreach Project, Las Vegas denounces Senator Reid’s call to close down the legal prostitution businesses in Nevada. This move would put over a thousand people out of a job in the hopes of possibly attracting new businesses to Nevada who allegedly stay away because of the brothels.

“To begin with, it’s just insanity in this economy to even suggest putting so many people out of work,” said Susan Lopez, founder of SWOP Las Vegas. “Where will these women go for jobs once their livelihoods are destroyed? Does Senator Reid honestly believe that it will be easy for prostitutes to find jobs in those businesses he hopes to attract? Does he really wish to destroy these peoples’ lives in this way? This is just political posturing on the backs of real, working women with real livelihoods at stake. Will Senator Reid promise to hire all the women who will be put out of their jobs at equivalent wage rates?”

“Nevada’s brothels are safer places than the streets for selling sex,” said Dr. Barb Brents, sociology professor at UNLV. “Brothels can actually help fight trafficking. Furthermore, prostitution still exists in the 49 states where prostitution is illegal. Outlawing brothels will send hundreds of women into the already huge black market, where safety, labor rights, and access to services will become issues.”

Tessa Joy, a Nevada brothel worker and voter, says, “Harry Reid needs to listen to the voices of the sex workers who depend on their jobs in the Nevada brothel system to make a living; to put food on the table and a roof over their heads. As somebody who claims to be so concerned about creating more jobs in Nevada, it’s very hypocritical for Harry Reid to try to put more of us out of work for making a legitimate living. This is going to take away the only legal way that sex workers in prostitution can work in the United States and the results will be tragic in terms of both our livelihoods and our safety. I’ve never tried to put Harry Reid out of work, so he has no business trying to put me out of work either.”

Brothels bring in much-needed revenue to the rural counties in which they operate, helping to fund public services such as firefighters, police, schools and more. Lopez says, “Scapegoating the brothels as being responsible for the bad economy is both disingenuous and dangerous. There is no guarantee other businesses will move to Nevada even if the brothels are eliminated, and if these businesses have issues with prostitution, who is to say they won’t have issues with gambling as well? Are the casinos next on Harry’s chopping block?”

Lisa Mellott, co-director of SWOP Las Vegas and social justice activist, says, “It’s ironic that Senator Reid would single out the brothels as keeping businesses away. Las Vegas’s entire economy is based on being an adult playground. Wouldn’t that keep those same businesses away?”

“Contrary to Senator Reid’s sentiment that the brothels are a throw-back to the Wild West, Nevada prostitution policy is more in step with the rest of the world than the rest of the US. Other countries across the globe are increasingly decriminalizing prostitution, as it allows the state to more easily address harms and grant sex workers rights,” says Dr. Brents.

Jenny Heineman, a co-director of SWOP Las Vegas and a Nevada resident who voted for Reid, is outraged at his proposition to “take away [her] sisters’ jobs.” She says, “I am a tax payer, a PhD student at UNLV, a sex worker, and an advocate for human rights. As my representative, I demand that he turns his attention to the real inequities suffered by Nevadans: namely the lack of revenue to support our education system. Stop screwing us for free!”

SWOP Las Vegas will fight for the rights of brothels to operate here in Nevada- the only place in America where women truly have the right to choose sex work.