PCG’s criminal justice work extends beyond sealing felonies to our ongoing partnership with End Demand Illinois, a multi-year statewide campaign to transform our community’s response to prostitution. This session we are lobbying for SB 1872 to end the felony sentence for prostitution in Illinois.
The Illinois Senate Criminal Law Committee unanimously passed SB 1872 after hearing testimony from the End Demand Illinois Campaign. Glenda Sykes, a survivor leader with Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, clearly moved the committee in her testimony about the ineffectiveness of felony prostitution charges, which are hindering her from securing employment as a healthcare professional.
Why this is important
Most people in prostitution face chronic homelessness, mental health, or substance abuse issues, and engage in prostitution for basic necessities, such as food and shelter. Many prostituted people are victims of human traffickers who force them to engage in commercial sex. Illinois ought to be a leader of national legal reforms that consider prostituted people as victims of human trafficking in need of services rather than as criminal offenders.
Currently, the felony sentence creates significant barriers to survivors of the sex trade who are trying to find employment and become productive members of the community. Many people in prostitution report being controlled by pimps, who force them into dangerous situations and abuse them. These felony charges are punishing the very people who are most in need of supportive services, and the charges do nothing to deter crime.
Source: End Demand Illinois, Proposal for a Statewide System of Supportive Services for Survivors of Prostitution and Trafficking, 2012.
Why Reform is Needed Now
Alicia’s story plays out every day in Illinois — trapped in endless cycles of exploitation, lives are ruined and public dollars are wasted.
Illinois’ felony punishment for a second prostitution offense is an expensive, ineffective use of diminishing local and state public safety resources. Illinois’ Department of Corrections reported 127 felony prostitution admissions for 2012, costing the state $2,011,680.
Felony prostitution unfairly targets women for harsher punishments. The “solicitation” offense for customers does not have a felony upgrade for subsequent offenses. In 2011, when law enforcement charged under the state criminal code, there were 1,875 arrests for prostitution and 95 arrests for solicitation.
Felony prostitution sentencing is rare in the United States – only seven other states have a felony prostitution sentencing option for subsequent offenses.
You Can Help
In the next few weeks, we expect SB 1872 to be called for a vote in the Senate. Check ilga.gov to find out if your Senator is Co-Sponsor, then contact your Senator to thank them or ask for their support of SB 1872 to eliminate the felony upgrade for prostitution in Illinois. You can access a Fact Sheet for SB 1872 and read more on the End Demand Illinois website.