posted Aug. 10, 2013
First of all there was the opening of the meeting by Ms. Kristin Wilson, the facilitator and member of the "Innovation Delivery Team" (from the Mayor's office); she informed us (I believe part of this little preamble speech was due to the fact that a number of our SNaP Co group had appeared in newly minted t-shirts emblazoned with the words "Solutions Not Punishment for People Just Trying to Survive", or perhaps it could be because the "evaluation meeting" that was to be held on the banishment proposal was cancelled due to a planned protest of said meeting...) that "There would be no 'blocking' of proposals, or otherwise making a disturbance intended to stop any particular proposal; she would have no problem going to the Mayor's office and telling the mayor that the WGRP should be disbanded..." (in other words warning us that she intended for this proposal for banishment was to brook no interruption).
What followed were the presentations of "action options" by Ms. Alice Johnson, Atlanta Police Department, talking about a "john's school" [tricks would be made to attend a 'school' around solicitation (I imagine they would be treated as if they were sex addicts), have their pictures published in papers, and program funded by a mandatory fine of up to $350...nowhere was arrest/jail mentioned in this proposal]. A Ms. Rosalie Joy, of the Public Defenders office, followed this up with a presentation on "In-Jail Programs" [which I suppose were suppose to sound positive in that they were suppose to provide offenders with drug treatment, counselling, etc.; I believe this was to go hand in hand with the "john's school"]. And mind you, while every proposal included arrest and jail time for prostitutes there was no mention of arrest and jail time for anyone else (hint, hint).
Our SNaP Co representative on the WGRP, Ms. Xochitl Bervera, then presented the proposal we're pushing, which provides for offenders to be given a choice of arrest or diversion to programs that will prepare them for alternatives to prostitution (i.e., job training/preparation, education [GED], housing, etc.). This is the "Pre-Booking Diversion Program", modeled after the successful program that has been implemented in Seattle, WA., and the only program presented that offered a diversionary option for prostitutes as opposed to arrest and jail. We feel that this system, that provides feasible alternatives to street work has the greatest chance of reducing recidivism (prostitutes would most likely prefer this option to the danger of the street, and jail).
After each presentation, during the period that possible questions are asked of the presenters from other WGRP members about their proposals, a Mr. Bill Cannon, "concerned community citizen" [and colleague of Peggy Denby] would ask, "And how will this reduce prostitution...we must remember, we're here to figure out how to reduce prostitution." Those of us with SNaP Co knew that all he's interested in (as well as Peggy) is doing more arresting and locking up [and feel that perhaps the "john's school" would reduce the demand and therefore reduce prostitution (HA, as if that's a finite number of men; remember this is "the oldest profession in the world" we're talking about, right?)].
Mind you, we are not calling banishment "banishment" any longer; for all presentations that included this method, they're now calling it "place enforcement"...
A few members of SNaP Co in attendance at the WGRP meeting after
With the completion of the last presentation, when it came time for the "community [us]" to offer our unofficial input to the WGRP regarding the proposals that had been put forward, we lost two WGRP members immediately.
To show just how much these two WGRP members had intention of "working with others" to come up with a consensus/compromise for change or improvement of action around reduction of street level prostitution, Bill Cannon and Peggy Denby left immediately after the presentations were made, showing no interest in hearing what we had to say; they are intent on having their lock'em up & banish'em procedures enacted. And as soon as I got the chance to speak on the mic, I made it a point to make the fact that attitude was noted by all of us (just in case other members of the WGRP had not noticed). Stay tuned to see what goes down in the next three months...some definite decisions are suppose to be made by this WGRP to present a 'proposal' to Mayor Kasim Reed for possible implementation...let's see what happens...