Position Statement -2019
A.654 (Paulin) / S.2253 (Hoylman)
The Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York (WBASNY) supports A.654/S.2253, which would repeal Penal Law Section 240.37, relating to loitering for the purpose of engaging in a prostitution offense. Currently, Section 240.37 causes irreparable harm to a vulnerable population. The repeal of this section of law would acknowledge and protect the civil and due process rights and dignity of these individuals.
The current impact of Section 240.37 disproportionally harms women, transgender women of color and women who have previously been arrested for prostitution offenses, many times having been victims of sex trafficking. Their mere presence on the street has become a criminal offense. According to statistics, from 2012 to 2015, 85% of the individuals arrested under this section were people of color or of Latino descent. Often these people are arrested during what is known as “sweeps,” where officers arrest large amounts of “profiled” people at one time.
Penal Law Section 240.37 results in the arrest of victims of violence and exploitation, as well as those who lack stable housing and support services. The added stigma and threat of arrest under Section 240.37 further victimize individuals who are homeless and victims of sexual exploitation, causing them to face increased negative police interaction, incarceration and a criminal record. In addition, as a direct result, this exposure decreases the likelihood that these individuals will avail themselves of police and social services when they need help or assistance.
WBASNY recognizes that arresting people under current Penal Law Section 240.37 has devastating consequences for both the targeted individuals and for the community at large. The repeal of Penal Law Section 240.37 is a step towards a broader solution to a critical problem, and WBASNY urges its immediate repeal.
WBASNY consists of over 4,200 members from twenty (20) chapters across New York State dedicated to promoting the advancement of the status of women in society and of women in the legal profession, and to the fair and equal administration of justice. Our members include individuals from all levels of state and federal benches, as well as prominent attorneys practicing in all areas of the law, educators and government leaders.