Manhattan's district attorney announced this week that his office will no longer be prosecuting prostitution and unlicensed massage.
Cyrus Vance Jr. said Wednesday that those laws disproportionately impacted LGBT individuals and other vulnerable populations. He called for the dismissal of more than 900 related cases that date back over half a century.
"Over the last decade we've learned from those with lived experience, and from our own experience on the ground: criminally prosecuting prostitution does not make us safer, and too often, achieves the opposite result by further marginalizing vulnerable New Yorkers," Vance said.
He argued that dismissing cases against sex workers, as well as expunging the criminal records of others, would secure "a paradigm shift in our approach."
"These cases – many dating back to the 1970s and 1980s – are both a relic of a different New York, and a very real burden for the person who carries the conviction or bench warrant," Vance said.
The debate over sex work is heating up in several places around the country with opponents calling it exploitative and victimizing. Advocates of decriminalization, however, believe doing so would protect the participants and benefit public health.