April 21 (UPI) -- Arrests for prostitution and unlicensed massage in Manhattan will no longer be prosecuted, District Attorney Cy Vance announced Wednesday.
In a virtual appearance in Manhattan Criminal Court, Vance moved to dismiss 914 such cases in what his office said was an effort to reduce the number of "unnecessary future contacts" between individuals and the criminal justice system.
"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.
"By vacating warrants, dismissing cases and erasing convictions for these charges, we are completing 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."
The Manhattan District Attorney's Office hasn't prosecuted prostitution cases if the person charged took part in counseling sessions since 2016. Under the new policy, those sessions would be completely voluntary and not a requirement for dismissal.
In addition to the case dismissals, Vance moved to vacate 5,994 bench warrants for cases dating back to 1976 as well as to dismiss 5,080 underlying loitering for the purpose of prostitution cases.
"This resolute action to actively decriminalize sex workers is the kind of change our community has been hoping for, advocating for, for decades," said Cecilia Gentili, founder of Transgender Equity Consulting.
"With the recent passage of the Walking while Trans bill, and the commitment our officials are showing to addressing this draconian use of laws which disproportionately criminalize queer, trans and Black and Brown women, New York City is showing we can do what it takes to do right for all of us!"