Saturday, 21 January 2012

Government make-work

One way America can work to solve its unemployment crisis: Hire one group to hand out free condoms for sex workers; hire another to consider those condoms as evidence that the bearer is a prostitute, arrest the bearer, and confiscate the condoms. It's win-win. Jobs for public health workers, police, judges, lawyers, condom-makers, the prison-industrial complex; hard to see any fault with it, really.
With the prostitution-free zones, prostitution is understood to be a crime of intent. No one is actually arrested in the act of having or agreeing to have sex for compensation; only for appearing as if they might do so. In the same vein, arresting officers in DC and throughout the US routinely search people suspected of prostitution for condoms, confiscating them as evidence of a crime. For some cops, condoms serve the function that marijuana does in a stop-and-frisk encounter (only there's no actual law against possessing or using condoms), unless a cop thinks you might be a sex worker or otherwise wants to move you along and into custody. 
Sex workers and health and human rights advocates have pointed out that it makes absolutely no sense for publicly funded police departments to confiscate condoms that publicly funded health departments make so widely available.
Washington DC confiscates condoms from sex workers; LA tries to make them mandatory for actors in pornographic videos (previous critique). I'd thought that optimal policy was "Condoms for some, miniature American flags for others!" Or combine the two (markets in everything, egads).

HT: @dr_alexpadilla

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