Examining women involved in street prostitution and how they end up entering the criminal justice system Essay

In the following assignment, it is my intention to produce a research report, examining women involved in street prostitution and how they end up entering the criminal justice system. Within the report I will look at three pieces of research, review their main findings, the type of research that was used, and look to identify where I believe further research is required.

My reason for choosing women in the criminal justice system is that I have expressed an interest in the criminal justice setting and my elective module is in this area. Anything that I learn from undertaking this assignment will aid my understanding and increase my knowledge base when undertaking my second placement.Prostitution has been defined as:”Prostitution involves the exchange of sexual services, sometimes but by no means exclusively, sexual intercourse, for some kind of reward, money, drink, drugs, a meal or a bed for the night” (Shaw & Butler 1998)Another simple definition offered was, prostitution is:”The purchase and sale, involving cash payment of sex”This is the preferred definition of Glasgow’s Street Working Women as stated in: Stewart, A (2000).Historical BackgroundThroughout the UK and internationally, the issue of prostitution is seen as an ever-increasing problem. For the purpose of this assignment I will concentrate on the issue of prostitution within the United Kingdom.There has been a marked rise in the incidence of street prostitution since the 1980s and a growth in the proportion of intravenous drug users involved in street prostitution. In Glasgow, police estimate that around 1100 women are involved in street prostitution, mainly in the city centre.

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It is conventionally understood that the vast majority of prostitution in the city takes place ‘outdoors’ (around 90%) with a small ‘indoor scene’ (10%). Women involved in street prostitution are subjected to ‘routine’ violence and in the last 7 years, there have been unresolved murders and suspicious deaths, (Women’s Support Project 2001). Historically, policing practices have been ‘heavy-handed’ and local government has sought to limit the spread of ‘indoor’ prostitution.

This is in contrast to the population of ‘indoor’ prostitution in Edinburgh, which is approximately (90%) with only around 50 women involved in street prostitution, the proportion of intravenous drug users is also reportedly lower (Mackay, F & Schaap, A 2000).In England and Wales between 1989 and 1995 there were 1,700 convictions of young people under 18 for offences relating to prostitution with a further 2,300 cautions issued. It was within this same period that there was a 40% increase in the number of recorded cases, which involved children aged 16 or under, (Mackay, F & Schaap, A 2000).

This has lead to the publication of national guidelines on the safeguarding of children involved in street prostitution in England and Wales (Department of Health, 2000).Over the years there has been more and more research carried out in relation to the issues surrounding street prostitution, with the government trying to identify areas that will enable street workers access, in order to gain some help and advice. There has also been comparable research studies carried out between Glasgow and Edinburgh, and also between Glasgow, Edinburgh and Leeds.Local Policy responses to the ‘problem’ of prostitution in Glasgow and Edinburgh are strikingly different. Whereas Glasgow tends to take an abolitionist approach to prostitution, Edinburgh favours regulation, (Mackay, F & Schaap, A 2000). Glasgow also has in place the “City Council’s Prostitution Policy Statement” (see appendix 1).

LegislationThe legislation that relates to women involved in street prostitution is highly discriminatory, and also highly stigmatised. The philosophy behind the legislation was to protect the ‘morally blameless’ men who fell victim to the purveyors of the diseases such as syphilis and gonorrhoea (Scrambler & Scrambler, 1997).The procedures for dealing with a person charged with street prostitution in Glasgow are as follows: first they receive a street caution, secondly they receive a Police Station caution. Having received these two cautions she (it is usually a woman) is considered to be a ‘common prostitute’, without ever having been to court and found guilty. If a woman is thereafter found to be soliciting on the street by two police officers she can be charged with contravention of S46 of the Civic Government Act 1982, which reads:’A prostitute (whether male or female) who for the purposes of prostitution a) loiters in a public place, b) solicits in a public place or c) importunes any person who is in a public place, shall be guilty of an offence’.Soliciting is not an imprisonable offence; the maximum penalty for street prostitution is �500.00, with a three-month sentence for failing to appear at court. However the reality is that many women are working street prostitution are suffering from extreme poverty measures and when given fines for soliciting, cannot pay them resulting in a revolving door method where they feel they have to go straight back onto the streets in order to raise the money to pay the fine.

In Scotland the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980 requires that courts consider a Social Enquiry Report (SER) in order to ‘consider the offender’s circumstances’ before sending a person to prison, however SER’s are not usually requested prior to the ‘alternative to custody’ for non payment of the fine. It is with the request for an SER that the street worker then becomes involved within the criminal justice system (Stewart, A 2000).Further discrimination that street prostitutes face is the fact that there is no penalty for ‘kerb crawling’; while a woman is removed from a car and charged with soliciting the driver is told to ‘drive on’. This is in contrast to England and Wales where the ‘client’ or ‘punter’ may be charged with a ‘breach of the peace’ although in practice, it seldom happens (MacKay, F & Schaap, A 2000).The first piece of research that I chose to look at was Client Violence Against Prostitute Women From Street and Off Street Locations: A three City ComparisonLiterature ReviewA research team at a Glasgow University conducted this study, it is the first UK study, based in Glasgow Edinburgh & Leeds, and it was designed to measure the prevalence of client violence against female prostitutes. It looks at the difference in the way, which Glasgow and Edinburgh & Leeds look at the issue of prostitution. Prostitution is described as a ‘problem’ within local policy networks (Mackay, F & Schaap, A 2000, Barnard, M, Hart, G, & Church, S 2001). Edinburgh and Leeds look upon prostitution as a ‘health problem’ and in Glasgow it is represented as a ‘social welfare’ problem.

In Edinburgh talk of ‘choice’ and ‘work’ predominate within the Edinburgh policy network, whilst in Glasgow the terms of ‘abuse’ and ‘vice’ are more prevalent. In the absence of overt political leadership, the development of Edinburgh’s ‘blind eye’ policy of toleration was incremental and ‘pragmatic’; it was driven predominately by public agencies within an informal policy network. In contrast Glasgow’s recent focus on prevention and exit strategies has been self-consciously (re)defined by anti-abuse femocrats who have been pro-active in formulating and reconfiguring an existing policy network around a ‘common’ ideology (Mackay, F & Schaap, A 2000).Key Findings* The difference in which two countries perceive the issue of prostitution* Different legal systems of Scotland & England* Prostitutes working Glasgow streets were 6 times more likely to have experienced client violence than those working indoors in Edinburgh; they were 4 times more likely to experience client violence than indoor workers in Leeds.* Many prostitutes began working in prostitution to support a drug habit* Only one third of prostitutes had reported client violence to the policeMethodologyThis was a longitudinal study, which is a study, conducted over a long time scale. Longitudinal research has been described as:”The method of choosing, the same set of people, and/or the same issue or situation, studied over a period of time” (Robson, C 1993).An advantage of carrying out this longitudinal study is that it allowed the researchers to survey a range of different situations based in the three chosen cities.

The methodology used within this longitudinal study had characteristics of both quantitative and qualitative approaches, it included structured questionnaires that were undertaken with a total of 240 street working and indoor working prostitutes in three British cities.* Glasgow (75 street workers)* Edinburgh (75 indoor workers)* Leeds (40 street and 40 indoor workers).Client violence was measured using a ‘tick list’ of 15 types of violence, biographical data was also gathered, including drug use. In-depth interviews were carried out with 90 prostitutes in their homes, sauna/massage parlours and private flats used for the purpose of prostitution. The interview covered a wide range of question including history, the negotiation of the encounter, personal relationships with non-paying private partners, interaction between prostitution and private life.One advantage of using structured questionnaires is that it can be given to large numbers of people simultaneously and who may be widely distributed geographically, although a major disadvantage is that there is no way of checking whether or not the respondent has understood the questions and therefore there may be a low percentage of questionnaires returned (Herbert, M 1990).Statistical data was also used within this piece of research in relation to the amount of prostitutes that took part, the average ages and the amount of prostitutes that experienced violence at the hands of a ‘client’. Some of the ethical issues for me in relation to this piece of research include the intrusion that these women may have felt by the researchers asking personal questions i.

e. personal relationships with non-paying private partners and their interaction between their personal and ‘working’ life. It did not state discuss the issue of confidentiality anywhere in the research and can only lead you to believe that it was not covered (Watson, D 2002). It never stated whether or not there was any counselling or other service offered to these women after they had disclosed some very sensitive data. Were they just left after the research had been concluded?The Second Piece of Research I chose was Routes out of ProstitutionLiterature ReviewRoutes out of Prostitution is an innovative Social Inclusion Partnership (SIP) based in Glasgow, which works to prevent women being drawn into street prostitution, it also serves to assist women already involved to exit prostitution by accessing alternative options like safe housing, child care support, drug programmes, training and employment. It is a city-wide partnership, which has been funded for three years by the Scottish Executive. It has an impressive list of partners including Strathclyde Police, Greater Glasgow Health Board, Glasgow City Social Work Department, Turning Point Scotland and Base 75 to name a few.

Given the controversial and intractable nature of prostitution as both an ethical issue and a policy problem, this study sought to chart the differences between its partners as well as the areas of common views and objectives. Routes out of prostitution looked at areas such as ‘what’s the problem?’ and ‘what’s the solution?’ this involved members of the Glasgow City Council Officer Working Group (OWG) and the SIP becoming involved in ‘heated’ and ‘acrimonious’ discussions regarding the meaning of the word ‘prostitution’ and whether they (OWG & SIP) should aim to eradicate prostitution altogether, or to try and help the women who wanted to ‘exit’ prostitution.Key Findings* There has been a marked rise in the incidence of street prostitution since the 1980s and a growth of the proportion of intravenous drug users involved in street prostitution* The formation of a Officer Working Group (OWG)* The challenges that prostitution brought to the group has been characterised by disagreements and opposing views by the OWG and the SIP* Recognition of the factors that lead to the involvement in prostitution for many women* The partnership has been tested by a number of matters of contention, the most serious of which has been around the form, function and establishment of the intervention team.MethodologyThis was an initial qualitative evaluation study, using in-depth semi-structured interviews, using an indicative question schedule. The interviews covered three distinct phases:1. The period prior to the SIP application, in particular the work of GCC Officer Working Group on Prostitution (OWG);2.

The transitional phase when the application was for SIP status was being formulated and submitted;3. The current period when the partnership is in its preliminary stages.In total there was 14 semi-structured interviews undertaken with members of the board and the OWG, with representation from Social Work, Housing, Health and Base 75. Semi-structured interviews allow researchers to compare individual’s responses to the core questions while other issues spontaneously raised by the interviewee can be taken account of. However using semi-structured interviews could bias the interviewer response in deciding which answers to follow up (Herbert, M 1990). Evaluative research is characterised by its focus on collecting data to ascertain the effects of some form of planned change, with its primary aim being to see if a particular policy or intervention is working. The idea behind evaluative research is that its findings will help policy makers to decide if a particular policy or programme needs to be extended, modified or replaced (Gilbert, N 2001).

This research also looked at the themes of the interviews, which were divided into a number of sections including:* The background to and formation of the OWG* Individual and agency/organisational views on prostitution* The process of developing the SIP proposal/ focus of proposal* The partnership today:(i) Values and vision(ii) Organisational issues, including issues of effective partnership working* Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threatsThe work that Routes out of prostitution does to help women ‘exit’ street prostitution, overwhelmingly out does any concerns that I felt in reading this research, once the OWG and the SIP had ironed out their differences it would appear that they only want what’s best for the women involved in street prostitution. However I do feel that given the extensive list of members that it boasts it could have invited some of the street workers to join the board, thus giving them a sense of empowerment, independence and put some of the control back in their hands.My third piece of research was: Where is She Tonight?Literature ReviewThe research of Where is She Tonight? was conducted within Base 75 a drop in centre in Glasgow; it was funded by the Rough Sleepers Initiative (RSI) in Glasgow. The main focus of the study was to research women’s experiences of homelessness and rough sleeping. It soon became apparent that homelessness, rough sleeping and prostitution are all commonly liked together. This research gives great insight into the lives of many women involved in prostitution and gives detailed accounts from the women themselves as to why they entered prostitution in the first instance. The researcher worked constantly and effortlessly with other agencies such as the RSI and other homeless units to try and find these women somewhere ‘safe’ to sleep.It is thought that at least 1,100 women work as prostitutes on the ‘Drag’ (Glasgow’s red light area) 95% of them are drug addicts with the youngest being only 12 years of age (Scotland Today Web Page).

The common fact among them, apart from drugs is desperation. They have no other means of making money. It is not all about drugs, many women find themselves in debt or such financial difficulty that they see prostitution as their only way out. In this research the women have spoken in detail about their own experiences relating to violence from clients. In the last seven years seven women have died and only one man has been convicted of murder, these women relate to these murders as ‘losing’ close friends and state quite honestly “it could have been me”. As a researcher, A, Stewart also took on the role of worker within Base 75 to allow the project to operate with more staff and do more ‘hands on’ work with the women. She was able to build up a trusting and honest relationship with the women, whilst allowing them to ‘tell’ their own story as Lerum, K (1999) states in Stewart, A (2000):”People are less likely to lie to their equals or people they see as insiders”According to Glasgow’s Joint Community Care Plan 1998 – 2001, there are a number of various reason offered for first time homelessness presentations, these include:* 44% evicted by relatives, friends or hostel* 10% violence* 7% no fixed abode* 7% separationIt is usually after a woman has been introduced to hostel accommodation (although not always) that she finds herself dabbling in drugs and then eventually becomes introduced to prostitution by another tenant.Key Findings* Each of the women involved in this study are individuals, each come with their own life experiences and background* Women involved in prostitution have a complex range of health needs* Violence is a constant danger and reality for most of these women* In Glasgow women are often introduced to street prostitution by other womenMethodologyAs the writer of: Where is She Tonight? Comes from a feminist perspective, she believes that her preferred method of collecting information was also considered from a feminist perspective.

“Feminist research can be used in the study social interaction in particular settings by the use of observational methods. There is considerable strength to be gained when using particular perspectives and particular methods, which vary considerably however each perspective will at a deeper level, exert a profound influence on the design, orientation and character of the study” Gilbert, N (2001).The combination of both Qualitative and Quantitative methods were used within this research study, using more than one method in a ‘complementary way’ rather than a ‘competitive way’ as Kelly et al (1995) suggest a ‘flexible position’, with the choice of methods being dependant on the size and scale of the study in question. Some of the methods of collecting data included:* Staff experience, project records and database = experiential and statistical data covering 10years service provision to approximately 1100 women involved in prostitution* Seasonal snapshot = Over 2 x1 week periods in August and December* Self completed questionnaires = a tick box style* Individual interviews = some of which were recorded and later transcribed* Support staff interviews = undertaken with housing and Base 75 staff* Focus group = several of the women participated in a focus group, which discussed abuse between clients and workers on the streets.The fact that different methods were used in gathering information could be described as a ‘triangulation’ this is where the;”Cross checking of certain phenomena and the veracity of individual accounts by gathering data from a number of sources and subsequently comparing and contrasting one account with another in order to produce as full and balanced a study as possible” Bell, J (1987 3rd Edit).

It was made very clear from the start of this research that the writer took great care in discussing the issue of confidentiality with the women involved in the research. She explains that at each stage care was taken to ensure that the women would not feel coerced or compromised into participating and support was offered to the women who disclosed painful and/or traumatic experiences.Changes in ResearchOnly this week prostitution has been highlighted on the news, with the proposal to introduce ‘tolerance zones’ in Glasgow. MSP Margo Macdonald launched a bill in parliament, stating that: “Tolerance zones will protect local residents and prostitutes alike”.

Edinburgh removed their tolerance zones 10 months ago and street workers believe that they have been placed in danger once again (Scotland Today 30/10/2002). Also since the introduction of ‘Women Offenders: A Safer Way’ in 1997 there has been the development and introduction of ‘A Better Way’ The report of the Ministerial Group on Women’s Offending 2000.Gaps/Further ResearchOne of the biggest things that was apparently missing from this research was there was no mention of women from ‘black’ or ethnic minority backgrounds. I looked at numerous pieces of work in relation to women offender’s particularly street workers; the only figure that I could find was only 3% of the female population in Cornton Vale Prison is represented by black or ethnic minorities, (HM Inspectorate of Prisons for Scotland 2001).

One Area that could use further research was highlighted in the Herald newspaper this week; it has become a very worrying state that women are apparently being coerced into working in illegal saunas as prostitutes. Sauna owners are buying the women’s debt they then ‘work’ to ‘pay off’ the debt, according to retired Chief Inspector Nannette Pollock ” the wording that refers to these women is debt-bonded”, (The Herald 1/11/02)One other area for further research could be the use of language used within the criminal justice system, terms like ‘common prostitute’ could and should be removed then maybe some of the stigmatisation that these women are subjected to would also be removed.


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