The city of Atlanta has announced the development of a Working Group to Reduce Prostitution that will focus on creating a proposal for curbing street-level prostitution. The city says that an ideal proposal would provide the Atlanta Police Department with additional tools to fight prostitution, fairly and appropriately.
The city also hopes that the proposal will help APD address both the demand and supply side of prostitution.
The city recently decided to put a hold on the “Stay Out of Areas of Prostitution” legislation that would have been implemented to deter continuing offenders from repeating their crimes. This legislation is essentially designed to keep people charged with prostitution out of high-prostitution areas, creating so-called prostitution-free zones.
“Our greatest hope is to come up with a solution that ultimately reduces prostitution,” said Carlos Campos, deputy director for the Mayor’s Office of Communications. “There were concerns that SOAP targeted women and we want legislation that is fair to everyone involved. We need a balanced approach to implementing consequences and actually handling the issue.”
Initial disproval of SOAP came from women’s rights advocates who said that the legislation does nothing for rehabilitation of women charged with prostitution and does not take the appropriate measures to penalize “johns.” The city will continue its hold on this legislation until the Working Group reports back with new or amended legislation.
“Handling prostitution is a public health issue as well as a public safety issue,” said Pastor Donna Hubbard, founder and executive director of Woman at the Well Transition Center. “It also needs to be a community investment. These are our communities being affected and Mayor Reed has taken a bold step creating this group.”
Community representatives and city stakeholders will collaborate and develop recommendations for the mayor and City Council.
Members of the Working Group were appointed by the City’s Chief Operating Officer, Duriya Farooqui and Councilman Michael Julian Bond, Chairman of the Atlanta City Council’s Public Safety and Legal Administration Committee. Members include leaders from the Mayor’s Office, City Council Public Safety Committee, Law Department, Atlanta Police Department, Atlanta Municipal Court and advocacy groups on both sides of the issue. All members are volunteers.
“I was honored to be asked to work with the Working Group,” said Stephanie Davis, executive director of Georgia Women for a Change. “I hope that we are able to come up with alternative ideas to handling prostitution. The SOAP legislation is bad public policy. Atlanta needs to develop better practices.”
Davis, who has worked on the issue of prostitution for the last 13 years, believes that the city’s first reaction to handling this issue was “very misguided.”
Members of the Working Group, like Hubbard and Davis, are anxious to implement programs that will provide job skills, safe and affordable housing and diversion programs for prostitutes.