May 29, 2014 (NEW YORK CITY) — Council Members Jumaane D. Williams and Carlos Menchaca, with the support of the Access to Condoms Coalition—a coalition of public health, anti-trafficking, reproductive rights, LGBT and civil and human rights organizations —introduced a resolution today calling for passage of state legislation (A. 2736 / S. 1379) that would prohibit the confiscation and citation of possession or presence of condoms as evidence of all prostitution-related offenses across New York State.
This proposed resolution builds on the recent NYPD directive partially banning the use of condoms as evidence in certain prostitution offenses, urging passage of legislation that would extend protections to victims of trafficking by expanding the ban to include all prostitution-related offenses and apply across the state.
The New York City Police Department’s welcome announcement that it will end the confiscation of condoms as arrest evidence in prostitution, prostitution in a school zone, and loitering for the purposes of prostitution cases in New York City demonstrates that the seizure and use of condoms as evidence of prostitution by the police is unnecessary to the administration of justice, inconsistent with promoting public health, and further marginalizes already vulnerable New Yorkers engaging in or suspected of providing sex for money.
The pending state legislation would close a critical loophole left open by the NYPD’s recently announced policy change: police can still continue to confiscate and cite the possession or presence of condoms as evidence in cases where promoting or trafficking is suspected. Continued use of condoms as evidence in these cases will have the unintended consequence of leaving victims of trafficking and young people without protection, creating a strong incentive for traffickers and exploiters to withhold or deny access to condoms to the people they control. It can also have the effect of discouraging businesses and other establishments from participating in New York City sponsored condom distribution programs. In the words of the Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice, who has implemented a policy banning the citation of condoms as evidence in all prostitution-related cases, including promoting and trafficking cases, “condom evidence was rarely of any value to a prosecution. If you need that condom so badly in the case against a trafficker, then you don’t have a good case.”
The resolution introduced today urges passage of state legislation that would expand full protection to all New Yorkers, and ensure lasting change that will be binding across New York State.