City Desk

Today in D.C. History: D.C.’s Top Cop Supported Legal Prostitution

On Jan. 27, 1978, then-Metropolitan Police Department Chief Burtell M. Jefferson said he would personally support legalizing prostitution in the District, but that he didn't think such a proposal would get any traction because of city politics.

"Regardless of what you do, prostitution is going to be here," The Washington Post reported Jefferson as saying. "I think that if we looked in the area of legalizing it, perhaps we might have a better chance at keeping it at an acceptable level."

A reporter followed up on the question. "Is that something you would support?"

"Yes, I think I would support that," Jefferson responded.

The Post also reported that Jefferson's views clashed sharply with then-Mayor Walter E. Washington:

Spokesman Sam Eastman said the mayor is "unequivocally opposed to legalized prostitution" and never had discussed the subject with Jefferson. If such a discussion were to be held, Eastman quoted the mayor as saying, "It would be a short conversation."

Practice of prostitution has provoked increasing concern in some parts of the city, especially downtown where prostitutes walk some streets flagging drivers, stopping pedestrians and even jumping into cars, sometimes assaulting and robbing the occupants.

The city has stringent penalties on the books for soliciting for purposes of prostitution, and more than 3,500 solicitation arrests have been made in the past two years. But prostitution is not a crime in the city, and the City Council is powerless to change that until 1979 when, for the first time, the young home-rule government will be allowed by Congress to amend the portion of the criminal code affecting prostitution.

Flash forward to today: Prostitution is still illegal in the nation's capital, but the idea of legitimizing the practice has not gone away. As Amanda Hess reported last year in Washington City Paper, the Gay and Lesbian Activist Alliance’s 2010 agenda, legalizing prostitution was on the organization's D.C. wish list. According to the agenda item:

Harassing, arresting and prosecuting people for survival sex solve none of their problems, but only pile more on. Whose idea of responsible public policy is this? To be justified, any public law ought to serve some identifiable common good. Saying to people as Sister Mary Ignatius did, “You do the thing that makes Jesus puke,” is no basis for criminalizing whatever it is. Having been the targets of moralistic lawmaking, we as gay people are especially on guard against it.

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  • sedcdude

    He was a very insightful and smartman....needless to say that he was correct!


    I agree with this man views. In Rhode Island indoor prostitution was legal from 1979 til Nov 2009 when they closed the loophole because they insisted they needed this new law to investigate human traffciking, yet there has never been one case in RI ever. The craigslist killer was caught because after he killed the girl in Boston he went to RI and robbed a escort and she dialed 911, because she did not fear being harassed or prosecuted.
    Anytime we create laws that prevent a women from reporting crimes committed against herself, you have taken away her sanction and protection.
    We now see the cops STALKING MIDDLE AGED CONSENTING ADULTS down online, using swat teams to kick in doors of desperate women and then issuing them a summons to appear. The cops call the womens landlords to try and get them run out of their communites and now people want to shut down all the spa's. These spa's all pay taxes, the women who work in them spend their money in your local businesses and who else is going to rent these locations in the worst recession of the century.
    We do not have the man power to monitor sex offenders to the point a man is able to keep a girl in his backyard for 17 years while on parole, but we have the man power to STALK ESCORTS ONLINE, and then we also have some bad cops that abuse these women.
    PA chief of police engaged in sex acts with 13 different women and then arrested them. Boston courthouse clerk admitted threatening women with pending cases for sex right in the courthouse and only got 2 years as the jury said they did not feel like the women HAD BEEN HARMED.
    I agree with this man that if we feel sorry for these wmen we should set up services for them to exit the industry.
    Look at,_wealthiest,_most_educated_women_of_their_time?page=entire

    You will see these women had much to do with women being allowed to vote, before then, women could not leave home til they married, they could not vote, work or own property or go in public alone, and their husbands were allowed to beat and rape them as they were slaves.
    The Mann act was created to stop white women from empowering themselves and to stop them from running of with black men. In 1905 there were only 30 white women for every 2500 white men in the USA.
    They claimed the 1905 mann act was to stop white slavery, but men made us slaves through marriage.
    How was does marriage work out for a women who husband takes off leaving her with 3 kids to feed and she has to track him down and sue for child support. Why do people thing sex equals love, or security.
    When we talk about morals, look at all the women who bring strange men home even thogh they have small children living in their households and they are supposed when their kids get molested.
    Why does the media try to paint all escorts as drug addicted street walkers, that would be like saying all muslims are terrorists.
    Now we have a guy murdering escorts and burying them in Long Island and the cops are bragging to the media about having a black book and trying to prosecute the men in it and now the escorts can't get the info they need to screen clients safely. they are putting us at risk.
    These teenage runaways are ungovernable kids, they do not rescuing they need to be thrown into BOOTCAMP until they can behave themselves.
    Indoor prostituion has nothing to do with human trafficking. It would be like saying there is no difference between porn and child porn.
    How many more women have to be murdered before we have some compassion for the sex workers plight.
    Do we think it is safe for a women of any age to be homeless and sleep in the streets?
    Why do we encourage society, that hate crimes against hookers is ok and that these women get what they deserve.
    We use to treat gay people the same way just 20 years ago.
    Why are we allowing the government to dicate over adults having sex in private as long as they are consenting.
    All these women who claim they are victims and were forced, had access to come and go and had cell phones but they did not report it until they were arrested for prostitution. They lie and say they were forced because of them shame the police put them through.
    Say no to bill HR 5575 which will give hundreds of millions to continue THE MORAL WITCH HUNT.
    The FBI just spend 800,000 on a 3 day sting to resuce kids being exloited. Out of 884 arrests, they found over 700 adults meeting with other adults, 99 pimps and 69 teenage runaways, that will runaway again at the tax payers expense and meanwhile the parents have no accounatbality for their ungovernable teens. We already have juvinile courts, child protective services, foster homes, detention centers and boot camps yet they CLAIM THEY HAVE NO WHERE TO HOUSE THESE TEENS, and the bill clearly states that nobody over 20 years of age can recieve any services.
    So any women that entered this lifestyle out of poverty and has engaged in survial sex can not get HELP if she is older than 20.
    Also these human trafficking adovocates have been collecting donations for victims for years and have not provided any servcies, instead they spend the money touring the country lying to the media about how many people are being exploited.
    I bet if I collected donations for starving kids and did not send food that I would be in jail for fraud.
    I here Texas spends 8 million dollars a year locking up hookers, why is there no JOHNS locked up in Texas.
    That was the whole basis for opening the loophole in RI in 1979 when Jane Doe aka Mrs. St.James sued in federal court for sanction and protection becsuse the cops in RI only threw the women in jail and not the men.

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