Vice Squad
Friday, October 22, 2004
Coerced Treatment and Berkeley's Proposition Q

The loyal Vice Squad reader will know that I believe that private, adult "vice" should, in general, not be criminalized. For that reason, I am not a big fan of coerced treatment programs, where an arrested individual, for instance, is given a choice between jail or treatment. The decision by an adult to seek treatment for any medical problem generally should not be coerced by the state, in my opinion. Nevertheless, given our current prohibition on some drugs and prostitution, the option to pursue treatment in lieu of prison is undoubtedly viewed as attractive by many arrestees, and I would probably not want to see that option curtailed, absent wider changes in vice policy.

Whew. All that by way of introduction to an editorial against Proposition Q, the Berkeley ballot initiative that would make prostitution enforcement a very low priority for the Berkeley police, among other things. Vice Squad noted before that the possibility of vice tourism (and the public nature of the solicitation that is a chief target of enforcement) might mean that even a supporter of prostitution legalization could oppose this measure. But the linked article does not take that approach. What is does offer, though, is an intelligent (if, to my mind, unconvincing) case against the Proposition, and one that relies to some extent on the "success" of coerced "treatment":
The best way to help street prostitutes is to help them get out of prostitution, and the best way to help them to get out of prostitution is law enforcement. Berkeley has a successful court diversion program, in which a judge offers street prostitutes who've been arrested for solicitation the options of going to jail or getting professional help through Options Recovery Services. This city-funded program helps women mend their lives, reunite with their families, and find meaningful work that will set them on the road to self-respect and independence. Options Recovery Services has had a 65 percent success rate in getting people off the street and off drugs.

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