CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Normative Theory and Legal Reform: Indoor Prostitution in Rhode Island

The connection is illustrated in a recent Wall Street Journal article, Legal Prostitution under Pressure in Rhode Island:

All forms of prostitution were illegal in the state until 1980, when legislators -- while amending the existing law to speed up prosecution -- inadvertently deleted the section that addressed the actual act of prostitution. The result was that the only thing that remained illegal was street solicitation, since police mostly use anti-loitering laws to arrest streetwalkers.

This legal loophole went unnoticed and police weren't thwarted until 2003, when Providence lawyer Michael Kiselica was representing sex workers in a case before the state district court here. He acknowledged to a Providence city prosecutor that the women had offered sex for money to undercover police but asserted no state law was broken. The case was dismissed.

State legislators have tried to restore the law for years, but fell short in the face of opposition by some lawmakers, civil libertarians and academics, who said that allowing the arrest of prostitutes could end up punishing victims of human trafficking.

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