STEPS supports new Legal Aid Society lawsuit against City of New York

Posted by: Brian Rentas

October
6
2016

STEPS stands in solidarity with a new lawsuit against the City of New York brought forth by the Legal Aid Society. Targeting Section 240.37, loitering for the purpose of prostitution, the lawsuit stipulates that the section is unconstitutional on its face and also because it is unlawfully enforced by NYPD officers who target women for arrest based on race, gender, ethnicity, gender identity, and/or appearance.
STEPS stands in solidarity with a new lawsuit against the City of New York brought forth by the Legal Aid Society. Targeting Section 240.37, loitering for the purpose of prostitution, the lawsuit stipulates that the section is unconstitutional on its face and also because it is unlawfully enforced by NYPD officers who target women for arrest based on race, gender, ethnicity, gender identity, and/or appearance.

“At STEPS to End Family Violence, we provide clinical support to survivors of complex trauma who have been arrested. With each new arrest or encounter with police we see a marked regression in the healing of their trauma symptoms. This disrupted healing is more lasting when the police encounter is experienced as arbitrary and discriminatory,” says Anne Patterson, Division Director of STEPS.

The Loitering for Prostitution law compromises the mental health and well-being of the people it targets,” Patterson continues.

Overwhelmingly, Section 240.37 targets communities, and specifically women, of color. The study “Criminal, Victim or Worker?” from the Red Umbrella Project looked at the Human Trafficking Intervention Courts in Brooklyn and Queens, the system through which those arrested for prostitution charges are processed, and found that the courts are disproportionately seeing women of color come through on prostitution-related charges, including loitering.

Courtesy of the Urban Justice Center’s Sex Worker Project

The suit was filed on September 30, and was a collaboration between the Legal Aid Society of New York and Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP.

According to the Legal Aid Society, under Section 240.37, a woman can be improperly arrested and detained simply because an officer takes issue with her clothing or appearance and decides that her purpose is to engage in prostitution. The Legal Aid Society has represented women assumed to be loitering for prostitution because they were wearing a “short dress,” “a skirt and high heels,” “tight black pants,” or “a black dress.”

An outfit considered appropriate elsewhere becomes the basis for an arrest when worn by a woman of color on Pennsylvania Avenue in Brooklyn or Jerome Avenue in the Bronx.

For more information regarding this lawsuit, please read this press release, and you may also read a report regarding Section 240.37 by the Urban Justice Center’s Sex Worker Project.

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