The 'Friends of Marcia Powell' are autonomous groups and individuals engaging in prisoner outreach, informal advocacy, and organized protest and direct actions in a sustained campaign to: promote prisoner rights and welfare in America; engage the Arizona public in a creative and thoughtful critique of our system of "justice;” deconstruct the prison industrial complex; and dismantle this racist, classist patriarchy...

Retiring "Free Marcia Powell"

As of December 2, 2010 (with occasional exceptions) I'm retiring this blog to direct more of my time and energy into prisoner rights and my other blogs; I just can't do anyone justice when spread so thin. I'll keep the site open so folks can search the archives and use the links, but won't be updating it with new posts. If you're looking for the latest, try Arizona Prison Watch. Most of the pieces posted here were cross-posted to one or both of those sites already.

Thanks for visiting. Peace out - Peg.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Stop criminalizing victims: Protect Sex Workers.

This is from Great Britain, but happens here all the time. This is why so many women and youth - so many victims - remain silent: they're afraid of being criminalized. Hopefully we won't have to worry about this scenario with Romley... A new sheriff will help, too.

For sex workers wanting to politically organize or learn more about your rights, contact the Sex Worker Outreach Project-Tucson (there are national and international chapters, too).

Date: Tue, 22 Jun 2010 23:25:14 +0200
Subject: Action Alert, Stop prosecution of sex worker who reported serious attack

Safety first: Stop prosecution of sex worker

who reported serious attack

On Wednesday 23 June, Hanna Morris is to be charged with managing a brothel or controlling prostitution for gain after she reported a serious attack. She faces up to seven years in prison.

Write or call Portia Ragnauth, Chief Prosecutor Surrey CPS. Ask why women’s safety is being endangered in this way.

Ms Morris is available to be interviewed. Contact: English Collective of Prostitutes Tel: 020 7482 2496 Email:

Last September, without hesitating, Ms Morris dialed 999 to report a serious attack into a flat used by her escort agency. Two identifiable men, one with a sawn-off shotgun up his sleeve, barged in, threw petrol about threatening to torch the premises and to hold the woman there against her will.

Ms Morris did all she could to help the police on the understanding that the information she gave would be used in the pursuit of the assailants. The attack was initially taken so seriously that helicopters and sniffer dogs were brought in, and the next door shopping precinct cordoned off. But within hours Ms Morris and her partner had been arrested; another colleague was subsequently arrested.

Nine months later, not only are Ms Morris and her colleagues being prosecuted, but the case against the violent assailants has been dropped. Ms Morris comments:

It used to be rare that I would hear about robberies in the area, we worked as part of a close community and were always looking out for one another. Now there isn’t a month that goes by when I’m not hearing that a place has been robbed or a girl attacked, it’s becoming more and more common, and everyone is too scared to report it. There have been six robberies in the last two months, none of which were reported, and that’s just those that I have heard about. It’s really quite frightening.”

We have told the CPS that by prosecuting sex workers who report attacks instead of their attackers, police and Crown Prosecution Service are making women more vulnerable. The Bradford and Ipswich murders took place after police crackdowns drove sex workers further underground and into more danger. Women didn’t report attacks for fear of arrest and violent men knew they could act with impunity. Surrey has shockingly low conviction rates for reported rape – nearly half the already disgraceful national average rate of 6.5%.

They are also acting against public opinion, which has time and time again prioritised safety. The acquittal of Ms Claire Finch on 29 April is a clear example of that. Ms Finch was prosecuted because she worked together with other women, even though they were all consenting adults and no force or coercion was used. But the jury agreed that it was safer to work collectively and found her not guilty.

Why is Ms Morris being prosecuted? Is it proceeds of crime?

The Sexual Offences Act 2003 made brothel keeping a “lifestyle offence”, prosecutable under Proceeds of Crime legislation. Raids and prosecutions have become profitable: the police keep 50% of any assets confiscated both during raids and 25% from subsequent prosecutions, with the Crown Prosecution Service keeping another 25% and the Inland Revenue the rest. Ms Morris’s and her partner’s home and assets have all been frozen. A substantial amount of cash put on one side to pay for income tax was taken in one of the police raids. No receipt was given.

The CPS is supposed to bear in mind the following considerations when prosecuting.

· To prevent people leading or forcing others into prostitution. But all women were working consensually independently. There was no force, coercion, violence or trafficking.

· The age of the prostitute and the position of those living off the earnings will clearly be relevant. All women who worked with Ms Morris were over 20 years of age. She was widely known to be good to work with, placing women’s health and safety foremost. That she reported the attack on one of the women is testimony of that.

· To penalise those who organise prostitutes and make a living from their earnings. Like millions of others, Ms Morris ran a small private business, not a big exploitative company. Both she and her partner are now destroyed. The family, which includes small children, is facing having to rely on state benefits.

· Generally, the more serious the incident the more likely that a prosecution will be required. The serious incident was AGAINST Ms Morris, not BY her. So why is she being prosecuted?

The laws which criminalise sex workers must be abolished. Safety comes first.

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