New York District Attorney Alvin Bragg De-Prioritizes Prosecution of Some Forms of Sex Work

Feb 11, 2022

In New York City, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg released a policy statement on January 3, 2022 de-prioritizing prosecution of some forms of sex work. Prostitution, and Patronizing a Person for Prostitution, are listed among the crimes the DA’s office will no longer prosecute. Alvin Bragg is New York City’s first Black DA and in the statement he describes how his Harlem upbringing influenced his policies.

DA Alvin Bragg also distinguishes between prostitution and coercive practices in the sex trade, which is unusual from law enforcement, highlighting the fact that trafficking is still a crime and is distinct from consensual labor. This move is a perfect example of decriminalization in criminal justice reform. New York has set a new precedent for other officials to follow if they want to actually make people safer.

In an official statement, Alvin Bragg shares that:

Growing up in Harlem in the 1980s, I saw every side of the criminal justice system from a young age. Before I was 21 years old, I had a gun pointed at me six times: three by police officers and three by people who were not police officers. I had a knife to my neck, a semi-automatic gun to my head, and a homicide victim on my doorstep. In my adult life, I have posted bail for family, answered the knock of the warrant squad on my door in the early morning, and watched the challenges of a loved one who was living with me after returning from incarceration. Late last year, during a stretch of multiple shootings within three blocks of my home, I had perhaps the most sobering experience of my life: seeing ––through the eyes of my children–– the aftermath of a shooting directly in front of our home, as we walked together past yellow crime scene tape, seemingly countless shell casings, and a gun, just to get home.

In large part because of these experiences, I have dedicated my career to the inextricably linked goals of safety and fairness. This memo sets out charging, bail, plea, and sentencing policies that will advance both goals. Data, and my personal experiences, show that reserving incarceration for matters involving significant harm will make us safer.