Criminal Justice

Manhattan Will Drop Charges for Prostitution and Unlicensed Massage but Continue Prosecuting Prostitution Patrons

The Nordic Model comes to Manhattan.


Manhattan will dismiss thousands of prostitution and unlicensed massage cases, District Attorney Cy Vance, Jr. announced on Wednesday. Going forward, Vance's office will also decline to prosecute people for selling sexual activity—though they can still be arrested, and people paying for such services will still be arrested and prosecuted. Additionally, the office will stop prosecuting people for unlicensed massage.

Overall, it's a positive step. Vance's office has moved to dismiss 914 prostitution and unlicensed massage cases and 5,080 loitering for the purpose of prostitution cases (New York legislators repealed the prostitution loitering law statewide in February). It's also a reassuring sign of changing attitudes toward sex work and the criminal justice system.

Manhattan follows in the footsteps of Baltimore, which stopped prosecuting prostitution cases (for sex workers and their customers) and an array of other non-violent misdemeanors last year. And the move comes at a time when statehouses across the country have been considering prostitution decriminalization initiatives.

For decriminalization to happen in New York, the legislature will have to get involved. That means prostitution—whichever end of the exchange one is on—is still illegal in Manhattan, and a future district attorney could decide to start prosecuting sex workers again. Particular prosecutors pledging leniency is great, but it doesn't negate the need for legislative change.

That's especially true since Vance's office will only offer leniency for sex workers, not their customers. That means Manhattan cops will still be policing private and consensual sexual activity between adults—still doing prostitution stings, still making prostitution arrests, and still prosecuting people on charges of patronizing a person for prostitution.

What Vance's office is advocating is a form of asymmetrical criminalization, often called the Nordic Model. It's a system that still creates many of the same harms as total criminalization, since it still forces sex work and sex workers underground.

Under the Nordic Model, sex workers must keep their whereabouts and activities secret or else face cops coming and arresting all their customers. Sex workers themselves may also be arrested in order to get them to comply in cases against their customers, coworkers, or bosses. And sex workers doing things like helping one another post ads, referring customers to each other, or sharing a physical work space can still be prosecuted as pimping, money laundering, or brothel-keeping.

All of this seriously limits the safety utility of not prosecuting people for selling sex, despite the fact that many advocates for asymmetrical criminalization claim it's about keeping sex workers safe. It also does little to reduce law enforcement contact with sex workers or cut down on the amount of time and resources devoted to policing sex.

In Manhattan, police aren't being asked to actually refrain from arresting sex workers or unlicensed masseuses. The plan is to still arrest these populations—still putting them into unnecessary contact with cops, still disrupting their work, still putting them on the state's radar—but to ultimately let them go if unlicensed massage or selling sex is their only offense.

"Any arrest involving these charges should be referred to the Human Trafficking Response Unit," state's Manhattan's new policy. "In cases where they are the sole charge, the Human Trafficking Response Unit will complete all necessary paperwork to formally decline to prosecute these cases and will arrange for information about voluntary services to be provided to the person arrested, but these services will no longer be mandated."

Vance's office notes that the new policy "does not preclude us from bringing other charges that may stem from a prostitution-related arrest."

While a Nordic Model-style system may be better than full criminalization, it's not what researchers, civil liberties advocates, and public health groups recommend, nor what sex workers say they want or need to keep them safe. What they're asking for is full decriminalization of prostitution between consenting adults—a system in which neither sex workers nor their customers are arrested or prosecuted.

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  1. Oh, your body is NOT your business if you’re on a California corporate board.

  2. Oh, today in libertarian news and commentary. Reason contributor, Brendan O’Neill.

    I don’t care what happens to Derek Chauvin. Throw away the key. He did an unspeakable thing to George Floyd. His inhumanity was clear to all in that photo of him callously kneeling on this gasping, dying man. A jury, in its democratic wisdom, has found Chauvin guilty of murder. And that’s that.

    But I do care about what became of Chauvin’s trial, what it was turned into. In the global whirlwind of commentary and condemnation that swept around the trial of one police officer in Minnesota, something else was taking shape. This became a trial of the United States itself. A trial of American history. And a trial of so-called whiteness. And that is something that should concern us all.

    1. Kyle Rittenhouse, the 2A, and private property rights are fucked

      1. Cry more thug. Your violence is telling. If Kyle looked for trouble he got it, and should be locked up for it. Your racism is not an excuse to commit violence towards others.

        1. I think it was the guy trying to push a fiery dumpster into an occupied gas station that was looking for the trouble… and subsequently found it.


        2. ohlookmerketthugs = DeOpressoLoser

          1. Are you one of those people that thinks that the Russians are following you around? You are attacking someone that isn’t even here. You are carrying old arguments around like they are new. As if they matter.
            You should get that checked out. It is not normal.

            1. I didn’t posit an argument. I made a statement.

        3. So the other people who were there looking for trouble don’t have any complicity?

          1. And actively causing trouble.

        4. Kyle looked for trouble by putting out fires you dumb fuck.

    2. C’mon folks, admit it, Rittenhouse’s actions after he was attacked by those pedophiles and misfits was just plain good entertainment. When he “canoed” that guys arm, I felt that he really got his point across to that fellow. The sleezeball that took a 5.56 to the chest was also entertaining. I haven’t seen anyone die in the street since I left Chicago. It was also educational for the dregs of society. Did you notice that Rittenhouse was wearing a belt and his pants did not fall around his ankles like all those dead “aspiring” Rappers you see lying at crime scenes? Yes Sir, he dressed for success.
      Most kids his age merely hold a pistol sideways and spray at a crowd to get their point across. Not that goofy kid Kyle. One round for each of them, and saved the rest of the mag for any other skateboard wielding, Douchebags.
      Just think. There are a whole lot of Rittenhouse types out there and the media is making more every single day.

  3. This may not seem like an important issue to those of us who don’t patronize sex workers [prostitutes], but what you don’t realize is that as soon as the prostitutes’ rights are respected by the government, the rest of us can depend on prostitutes to help defend our Second Amendment rights and help us get rid of socialist programs like Medicaid.

    Why, once the rights of prostitutes are protected, they may start supporting the First Amendment right of fundamentalist Christians not to bake cakes for gay weddings–isn’t that right?

    1. Have to say; I did not see what you did there…

      But I think you are posting that if the authorities forego their supposed right to arrest, prosecute, and otherwise fuck with people for such non violent consensual acts as sex [it is, after all, a morals charge, nowadays under the guise of “human trafficking”], then that possibly may open a virtual Pandora’s box of what other things the government should not have it’s nose in, especially if it is not causing anyone harm?

      And by extension the right to own guns [with which the vast majority of us do not and will never commit any crimes], bake cakes, or not, etc.

      Not sure where Medicaid comes into this particular instance.

      1. “Not sure where Medicaid comes into this particular instance.”

        Penicillin is a constitutional right?

      2. I really meant to highlight the necessity of various interest groups coming together to help protect each other’s rights. I also meant to point out that it’s very hard to imagine some groups doing that, isn’t it?

        It’s hard to imagine fundamentalist Christians coming to defend the right of prostitutes to prostitute themselves, and it’s hard to imagine prostitutes coming together to defend the right of fundamentalist Christians to refuse to cater gay weddings.

        And yet, somehow, as libertarians, that is what we must do.

        The right of Muslims to build mosques where they want and to say and wear what they want and the right of people who don’t like what they say and what they wear to say the things they want and fly flags they want–it’s all interdependent, isn’t it?

        The advancement of the libertarian cause seems to be about getting people who hate each other to respect each other’s rights.

        If intelligent design is right and there’s a God who created all of this, she’s probably a woman.

        1. Agree that such groups that seem to be naturally adverse to one another are not likely to coalesce; fundamentalist be they Christian, Muslim, or whomever are not likely to accept sex work as a valid occupation [never mind the human trafficking hysteria, and “what little girl wants to grow up to be like that women in the picture with the THOs?”]; and prostitutes do not seem likely to want to defend the rights of cake bakers to not do something; as for 2A, we are largely on our own.

          No, much better to fight with one another and try to get government to go after whomever you don’t like. That is at least what human nature, be it designed by a female deity or not, seems to be.

          1. Women seem to be very good at tolerating each other–even though they maybe can’t stand each other. They can even genuinely miss other family members at a distance that they can’t stand in person. If God built a universe where our prosperity, freedom, and happiness depended on treating each other well from a distance–even if we can’t stand each other in person–my guess is that God is a woman.

            If it weren’t for women, I might never spend more than a minute with someone I didn’t like. Because of women, I find myself in that situation a lot. Haven’t you ever spent an afternoon with some asswipe because he’s married to your woman’s friend? Haven’t you ever spent a holiday with your woman’s fucking family because that’s what she wants you to do and she wants you to fucking enjoy it?

            I wouldn’t do any of that if it weren’t for women.

            1. I feel you pain; men with women are concerned, it is all about compromise.

              As for spending time with asswipe husbands of wife’s friends and dipshit relatives, I’ve gotten too old and too fucking rude for that.

        2. I don’t think the issue with mosques has ever been where they’re but but the 5 times a day screaming over the loudspeaker.

          1. The Ground Zero mosque was a pretty big issue for a while there.

        3. That indeed is what Discordianism says: Someone had to have created all this chaos and confusion.

          1. I am definitely looking at the order that emerges out of the chaos as being distinctly feminine. From my perspective, the universe seems to reward us for playing nicely with each other. I’ve written recently here about how altruism emerges naturally that way. Female bonobos, who are notoriously permiscuous, will shun males that refuse to share the food they have with others. If that isn’t natural selection for altruism, what is? Evolution is just the way markets manipulate our instincts and our genes. If we could see the invisible hand, I suspect it would be soft from the use of cold cream and have a really nice manicure.

            1. “Female bonobos…” Ken, what the hell are you smoking today? You’re sounding like Cliff Clavin.

              1. Because bonobos are the closest living species to man, they’re fascinating. Oh, and they screw like crazy. When you see them at the San Diego Wild Animal Park, you have to observe them with binoculars from a distance, the display is so far away–and I think it’s because they’re constantly screwing and they don’t want to freak out the kids (or their parents).

                “Sexual activity generally plays a major role in bonobo society, being used as what some scientists perceive as a greeting, a means of forming social bonds, a means of conflict resolution, and postconflict reconciliation.[67][4] . . . .

                Bonobos do not form permanent monogamous sexual relationships with individual partners. They also do not seem to discriminate in their sexual behavior by sex or age, with the possible exception of abstaining from sexual activity between mothers and their adult sons. When bonobos come upon a new food source or feeding ground, the increased excitement will usually lead to communal sexual activity, presumably decreasing tension and encouraging peaceful feeding.[70]

                More often than the males, female bonobos engage in mutual genital-rubbing behavior, possibly to bond socially with each other, thus forming a female nucleus of bonobo society.


                Chimp One: “Look everybody, there’s a whole bunch of food!”

                Chimp Two: “You know what that means. Everybody grab a partner and screw!”

                They sleep in groups of 100. Caligula had nothing on bonobos.

                1. Assuming you are correct about bonobo food-sharing: To share food, the male bonobo has to gather more than he needs. This is evidence of genetic superiority, which is likely to be passed on to his children, making them more likely to survive and reproduce, so he is a preferable mate. The females don’t reason this out; instead they’ve evolved a preference for generous males, while males evolved to be generous when possible. This is a trait that cannot be faked for long – a male that was starving himself to appear generous would soon be unattractively scrawny and weak.

                  Apparent examples of “altruism” in animals are generally like this: it’s an activity that benefits both the group and the individual, and it’s something that can’t be faked. E.g., Thompsons Gazelles that see a predator approaching will “stot”, that is, rapidly jump up and down in place with all 4 legs. It’s a clear warning to the other gazelles, but it is also a self-proving message to the predator: “I see you, and I’ve got 4 good legs. You can’t catch me, so save your energy.” Maybe the female gazelles are impressed by the alertness and strength demonstrated by the first male to stot, and maybe not, because stotting is worthwhile even when no other gazelle sees it; it’s a small expenditure of energy that often saves the much greater expenditure of actually running from the predator.

          2. Hail Eris!

    2. Libertarians need to stop taking sides in the culture war first of all. You can’t defend liberty for all if you see some groups, like sex workers, as your enemy.

    3. Medicaid is a subsidy to hospitals and doctors. It is pennies on the dollar.

      Because the medicals work on a different premise those patients will be taken care of somehow. There are two ways to do that and both happen. One is cost shifting. The $80 Tylenol. You pay for that directly or indirectly by insurance premiums. The other is through Medicaid which is paid through federal and state income tax. Medicare is a different subject.

      Either way you are stuck with it. It is not a box of cornflakes.

  4. How could be a body be business?

    1. It’s a great business! You got it, you sell it, you still got it!

    2. “Selling your body” is a misnomer. What is sold is a service.

      1. It’s more of a rental.

        1. I suddenly have a great idea for an Uber/AirBnB type app if anyone knows a former coalminer that learned to code


    Let the kids stab each other is where we are at in society. That was quick [screenshot]

  6. Nice tits. That’s all I’ve got.

    1. all she’s got too…

    2. Why would a prostitute be wearing a mask?

      1. Some guys are into weird stuff like that.

        1. Or “Great body, but her face.”

      2. Same reasons she wants you to wear a condom.

      3. Same reasons she wants you to wear a condom. She doesn’t want to catch something that puts her out of commission for awhile. No unemployment insurance in that business.

  7. >>Overall, it’s a positive step.

    only if I want to sell myself. not so much if I want to purchase someone else

  8. “Overall, it’s a positive step”

    No, it’s not. What good is an alleged right to sell something no one can legally buy?

    Kind of like “legalizing” mamajuana while keeping it illegal to buy, sell, grow, or transport.

    1. OK, that squirrel spellcheck is actually funny. And the “M” and “R” aren’t even close on the keyboard.

      1. mamajuana looks intentional and it works.

        1. That it does; and it sure fits the picture above. That is a “mamajuana” if I’ve ever seen one!

    2. mamajuana is an alcohol from the Dominican Republic.

  9. Thread:

    Perhaps the feds could dedicate 1/100th of the resources they’ve dedicated to tracking down everyone involved in the Capitol riot to preventing the next mass murder spree.

    1. I doubt that it’s possible to prevent the next mass murder spree. Considering how bad even good psychologists are at predicting aberrant behavior, if the cops seriously tried to do this, they’d be harassing 100 odd but harmless people for every 1 that was maybe going to be a mass murderer – and driving more than 1 out of that 100 into deciding to end their problems and take as many as possible with them.

      Nor does taking guns away from those odd individuals accomplish much. Anyone in the USA who isn’t institutionalized can get a car and drive it through a crowd. (If they are institutionalized, most likely it will just take more time and planning, to escape and steal a car.) There are countries like China where there are almost no guns in private hands, and few cars for the non-elite; these countries have mass-murders committed with knives! Finally, none of the three worst mass murders in US history (excluding ones committed by the military or police) required guns: The Bath, Michigan school bombing in 1926, the Tim McVeigh bombing, and the 9/11/2001 aircraft hijackings with only box-cutters as weapons.

      In fact, what gun control does is to make most mass murders worse; there’s no one there with the means to stop it when it begins, and the cops generally don’t arrive or don’t act until the killer has stopped by himself. Mass murderers who do use guns almost always go for “gun-free” zones.

  10. The first thing i thought when i saw the title was that by punishing the patron rather than the prostitute – lets assume for public moral and bodily health reasons – you have a situation similar to allowing unfenced construction sites.
    You are allowing the presence of something that will attract people to their own detriment [again, assuming the reasons posited] so the governing body that allows that hazard to be unbarricaded is to assume responsibility for any negative outcomes.
    The state may punish kids trespassing on a construction site but they would also come down hard on the construction company that didn’t put up adequate fencing on the grounds that one could foresee the injuries that could result. Here they allow the presence of a hazard and punish those it temps. If the state doesn’t want to be sued for some guys case of the clap they should cover their bases and over-regulate both sides… or better yet, let both sides assume their own responsibility.


    So I just had to speak to two FBI agents….who were investigating me over making sarcastic tweets.

    No, I’m not joking. Even they seemed embarrassed about it.

    The FBI is literally spending their resources investigating individuals over sarcastic tweets.

    Think about that.

    1. I’m watching it on youtube. She was set up by lefties who want her destroyed.

    2. This is not new. I called a VA worker a “speedbump” five years ago and had three Homeland Security vehicles in front of my house the next morning. They even brought a mental health worker. They sure as hell did not want to be there but they had no choice. They hate the VA more than I do.

  12. Are you using “decriminalization” in that confusing way where it means “legalization” in prostitution, but “reduction of penalties to civil fines” in drug contexts; and “legalization” to mean “legalization with regulations” in prostitution, and “legalization” in drug contexts? Why can’t we be consistent here?

    1. Yes, the drug-law reformers and the prostitution-law reformers have evolved nearly opposite vocabularies. This is because every time prostitution-law reform has made a little headway, it was hijacked by do-gooders with cockamamie regulations that leave the prostitutes either no better off or even worse. (See Maggie McNeil’s blog for far too many examples.) E.g., Nevada “legalized” prostitution – but only with the prostitutes confined to brothels in rural counties far from most of the customers. Any girl with enough brains to make it as a call girl will prefer to do so illegally and hopefully under the radar, usually in Las Vegas or Reno where the moneyed customers are, and to keep most of their earnings aside from bail money and fines, than to be locked up in a legal brothel. Other countries legalized prostitution per se, but two girls sharing an apartment is a banned “brothel”, and anyone who answers the phone for a call girl, drives her to appointments, works as a prostitute’s bodyguard, or helps with her business records is liable to arrest as a “pimp”. And then there’s the Swedish model – which arrests her customers as well as her business associates. So prostitutes prefer simple non-enforcement of laws (“decriminalization”) because they no longer believe that “legalization” will ever emerge without twisted and sadistic regulations.

      OTOH, until quite recently drug law reform never even got close to legalization and the occasional “decriminalization” left massive loopholes for the cops to throw drug sellers and losers into cages. When marijuana legalization began to happen, it was by referendum written primarily by the reformers, without any sadistic twists written into the proposed law. (They still got sadistic twists invented by Attorneys General, but that seemed to be because they weren’t specific enough in writing the law.)

      So the drug-law reformers are still surprised every time a state legislature sadistically twists “legalization”. Also, when your state legalized either medical or recreational marijuana by referendum and the AG and/or legislature twisted it, it seems possible to overrule them with another referendum and get to real legalization – and that’s better than the false “decriminalization” that we’ve sometimes achieved in the past.

  13. Isn’t this just another version of “My body, My Choice”.
    If it works for abortion why not for prostitution?

  14. Manhattan Will Continue Prosecuting Prostitution Patrons
    as long as fat, ugly, sexless wives demand it.

  15. Right outside my hotel on a nice quiet residential street in Amsterdam. Sorry. Can’t show photo. It shows a picture window with red drapes partially open and a woman of 25-45 age wearing a bikini (of lace, not wet translucent beach ware).
    Nothing tawdry about it. She smiled and waved back at us.
    Licensed, protected, lucrative part time job for the woman.

    1. you meant that we need thoose thing if we’d go to make it? =)

  16. Well, it’s a step in the right direction.

  17. Prostitution is less subversive than other means of using sexuality.

    2. One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, 3 and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” 4 Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her. Then she went back home. 5 The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, “I am pregnant.”

    2 Samuel 11

    She knew what she was doing. Her son became a king.

    A prostitute is a much more straightforward transaction. There is no ambiguity there.

    1. And with a prostitute, you won’t have to arrange for her husband to die in a war.

  18. They should accept BitchCoin to keep it on the DL.

  19. Oh, your body is NOT your business if you’re on a California corporate board.

    1. Prohibitionism spreads diseases. In WW1 crones and harridans of the Wizened Christian Temperance Union stopped doctors from treating hookers near Army bases. The May Act passed in June 1941 initiated the use of force against working girls near military establishments. So thank superstition, pseudoscience, eugenics and religious fanatics if you ever get VD. Maybe that’ll teach you to vote Libertarian and stay out of wars.

  20. The same thing was tried during the Republican War on Beer, but by then the entrepreneurs had learned to shoot cops. Congressman Brookhart offered to publish the names of politicians who were bootlegger customers. New Jersey responded to this in November 1930 by trying to arrest buyers. The upshot was that in the 1932 election Republicans were booted out of office for most of 20 years and the Communist party increased over 700%, contaminating the Dems. But the important thing in 1930 was the initiation of force against beer.

  21. Outing politicians who frequent sex workers is probably the second best approach.

  22. Why would a prostitute wear a mask?

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