Public Health Crisis: The Impact of Using Condoms as Evidence in New York City

PROS Network/Sex Workers Project. April 2012

From the Conclusion:

While the sample size for this study was small, the results demonstrated that people in the sex trade in all five boroughs have experienced, observed, or heard of the confiscation of condoms and the use of condoms as evidence, and that this has affected the number of condoms they carry and the frequency with which they carry them, as well as in some instances, their condom use. These findings are corroborated by the DOHMH Study, which found an even higher rate of confiscation of condoms by police.

While many survey participants expressed confusion about the number of condoms that they are legally allowed to carry, the results of this study revealed that people can be harassed or arrested for possessing even one condom. Despite the fact that most prostitution cases do not go to trial, condoms are frequently vouchered and cited in criminal court complaints and supporting depositions as arrest evidence in prostitution‐related cases.

These policies and practices may have a dangerous impact on safer sex practices in general. Of the participants in the survey who are involved in the sex trade, 45.7% reported that they have not carried condoms out of fear that it may get them in trouble with the police or lead to their arrest. For all too many people in the sex trade, the importance of safe sex is outweighed by the importance of avoiding police harassment, humiliation, sexual and physical abuse, and arrest, as well as the potential indirect consequences of arrest (including vulnerability to HIV transmission and/or violence while in detention).

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