UDC-DCSL hosted "Prostitution Free Zones in DC” on March 20, 2012, focusing on the constitutionality of the current Prostitution-Free Zone (PFZ) law and the effects and effectiveness of the existing PFZ mechanism. The panel presentation was co-sponsored by the UDC-DCSL Chapter of Outlaw, American Constitutional Society, Women's Law Society, The National Lawyer's Guild, Law Student's for Reproductive Justice, and the American Civil Liberties Union.
Ricci Levy, Executive Director of the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance, moderated the panel featuring:
Rich Gilbert, Esq., National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
Ariel Levinson-Waldman, Esq., Special Counsel to the Attorney General of D.C.
Assistant Metro Police Chief Peter Newsham described prostitution free zones by telling the audience they are 1000 ft. X 1000 ft. areas. The zones are requested by the Police Department, and allow the police to break up prostitution from happening inside the zone for 20 days.
Rich Gilbert of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers said the zones are actually an anti-loitering law. He also said the zones were impractical and unconstitutional saying that "congregate” and "disperse” were too vague for police to use.
Ariel Levinson -Waldman, a Special Counsel to the Attorney General of D.C., said the law on Prostitution Free Zones must be made clear to people before cases are brought to trial. He said prostitution free zones were constitutionally suspect and that strong law enforcement tools are already available to police to break up prostitution. For Levinson-Waldman, it is ultimately a neighborhood and social policy problem.
Cyndee Clay said her group, HIPS, has successfully developed harm reduction techniques for sex workers including condom distribution, helping sex workers find legal employment and crisis counseling. She argued against making prostitution free zones permanent since prostitutes have become fearful of reporting violent crimes.