New Orleans Cops/Prosecutors Tagging Prostitutes as Sex Offenders

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

This is just horrendous:

New Orleans city police and the district attorney’s office are using a state law written for child molesters to charge hundreds of sex workers like Tabitha as sex offenders. The law, which dates back to 1805, makes it a crime against nature to engage in “unnatural copulation”—a term New Orleans cops and the district attorney’s office have interpreted to mean anal or oral sex. Sex workers convicted of breaking this law are charged with felonies, issued longer jail sentences and forced to register as sex offenders. They must also carry a driver’s license with the label “sex offender” printed on it. Of the 861 sex offenders currently registered in New Orleans, 483 were convicted of a crime against nature, according to Doug Cain, a spokesperson with the Louisiana State Police. And of those convicted of a crime against nature, 78 percent are Black and almost all are women…

Tabitha has to register an address in the sex offender database, and because she doesn’t have a permanent home, she has registered the address of a nonprofit organization that is helping her. She also has to purchase and mail postcards with her picture to everyone in the neighborhood informing them of her conviction. If she needs to evacuate to a shelter during a hurricane, she must evacuate to a special shelter for sex offenders, and this shelter has no separate safe spaces for women. She is even prohibited from very ordinary activities in New Orleans like wearing a costume at Mardi Gras.

Merely an arrest—a conviction isn’t required, nor does the arrest need to be sex-related—can add another 15 years to your time on the list. And challenging the charges will only make it worse.

Although some women have tried to fight the sex offender charges in court, they’ve had little success. The penalties they face became even harsher in 2006 when Congress passed the Adam Walsh act, requiring tier-1 (the least serious) sex offenders to stay in the public registry for 15 years. There’s also an added danger to fighting the charges, according to Josh Perry, a former attorney with the Orleans Public Defenders office.  “The way Louisiana’s habitual offender law works, if you challenge your sentence in court and lose, and it’s a third offense, the mandatory minimum is 20 years. The maximum is life,” he explained.

Thanks to John Cole for the tip.

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59 Responses to “New Orleans Cops/Prosecutors Tagging Prostitutes as Sex Offenders”

  1. #1 |  keninnorcal | 

    This project rings a bell. Oh yes, September 10th, 2001. One of the FBI’s major projects was focusing on New Orleans hookers. Glad they had their eye on the ball then as well as now.

  2. #2 |  ravenshrike | 

    It’s Nawlins, the city with the most corrupt legal system in the US. What did you expect. Personally, I’m hoping for the P&I clause to be revived in MacDonald.

  3. #3 |  the friendly grizzly | 

    Steamed McQueen said “2010- Now that all the hippies have grown up and are now in power, they enact ever more severe penalties on things that they themselves did with impunity.”

    Uhh… no. More likely it is the 1960s Youth for Christ crowd.

  4. #4 |  David Chesler | 

    I’m curious about Lawrence as well.

    I’m also pessimistic about legalization of prostitution. A loophole in Rhode Island made solicitation or streetwalking illegal (which is what folks complain about) but prostitution itself was not. With the advent of Craigslist (doing for prostitution what the ‘net did for porn) and some guy who robbed a few and murdered one sex worker he met through Craigslist in Boston, they had to do SOMETHING, so it is now illegal to sell sex in Rhode Island as well.

  5. #5 |  Dave Krueger | 

    #54 David Chesler

    …so it is now illegal to sell sex in Rhode Island as well.

    I only learned about a week ago that only street walking had been illegal in RI. I always thought that NV was the only state that permitted prostitution. I didn’t know they made it totally illegal though.

  6. #6 |  ShelbyC | 

    This doesn’t sound right. Laurence v texas should have taken care of the unnatural copulation thing.

  7. #7 |  Jonathan | 

    If prostitution were legal I can easily imagine a respectable trade and higher class of women working as well. Prostitution has been around forever and is not going to end anytime soon.

    “Selling is legal. Fucking is legal. Why isn’t selling fucking legal?”

    George Carlin R.I.P.

  8. #8 |  mnuez | 

    I can’t imagine that this is true. When I was in NO in September, the cops on the beat on Bourbon Street were VERY close and comfy with the working girls and both the cops and the girls implied to me that they were occasionally sexually intimate. (One implication for example was when I was sitting on the curb with a couple of girls at 3:00 AM and a cop came riding up on some sort of go cart and a girl lackadaisically said, “I’m going to give him a hand job.”)

    I spoke with a patrolling officer about the local sex-for-pay scene for close to an hour and he not only made it clear to me that NO has so many more serious issues such that they would almost never care what consenting adults do but he also insisted on foisting upon me a detailed review of every sex-for-pay establishment in the city, complete with his recommendations, approximate prices and bargaining techniques. (For the record my curiosity was of the human interest variety and not based on any need-to-know but that should be irrelevant. I mention it only so as not to appear to have been biased by amorous intents.)

    All of this is completely true and it’s the same impression that I got from the girls who I spoke with. In fact, my talk with this particular officer concluded when a couple of hookers stopped by to ask him to walk them home.

    NO seemed very libertarian with regard to this issue even if one wouldn’t be too paranoid to believe that there’s some congenial tit for tat between the parties.

    On a related subject, the French Quarter rules! — Though they could definitely do with some apartheid laws. Al of the drinking and singing and flirting… with 95% fewer stabbings and rapes. a man can dream, can’t he?

  9. #9 |  Michael | 

    Great article. I really can’t understand how good Christians (#21) could do this! Then as Jesus said in the New Testament, after someone called him, “good sir”, “Only God is good”. I tend to refer to those that know what the Bible says in it as real Christians, not the bozos that make up all the rules, the other Christians are supposed to follow. We are all hypocrites when it really comes down to it. No one is perfect and all Christians will fail, in some way!

    Anyway, I refer to my first wife’s views on sex. “anything in the marriage bed is undefiled” (not condemned). This is actually in the scripture of Hebrews 13:4. That is what I still believe. Funny thing is it goes on to say the “whoremongers and adulterers, God will judge”. It says nothing about the “whores”!!! I happen to believe in mercy and forgiveness, so all of the bad acts I atoned for, are not going to condemn me, either! And, I try not judge anyone, including a gays.

    I don’t expect anyone else to believe the way I do. But, it is interesting that these Christian” scriptures are in fact directly opposite to what the “good Christians” would believe. I guess they don’t know their Bible! Then again, many atheists know more about the Bible than these “good Christians”.

    And might I add the thought that the hand job, mentioned in one of the comments, was also “unnatural sex”?! Nothing is unnatural if one is married. I guess those times, when I was unmarried, were?! Absolutely! But, I am just a human.