Reform of New York’s Human Trafficking Intervention Courts

  • Download report, published October 2014 by Red Umbrella Project – Criminal, Victim, or Worker? The Effects of New York’s Human Trafficking Intervention Courts on Adults Charged with Prostitution-Related Offenses (PDF, 36 pages. Audacia Ray and Emma Caterine, co-authors)

20989187774_484bce6410_zIn fall 2013 the State of New York Unified Court System announced the Human Trafficking Intervention Courts (HTICs), an initiative that mandated social services to people arrested on prostitution offenses in New York, reframing them as victims instead of criminals. In 2014 Red Umbrella Project staff and members conducted a sex worker-led observational study to document the HTICs in Brooklyn and Queens and to build a case for a different kind of reform. The report’s release was covered in the Daily News, Village Voice, VICE, The Nation, Reason, Courthouse News, and others. Over the course of the following year, RedUP organized with women of color who were directly impacted by the courts to create demands for reform. In September 2015, RedUP members staged a rally on the steps of City Hall presenting testimonies of transgender women impacted by criminalization of prostitution (see full album of photos here), myself and another staff member presented testimony during a City Council oversight hearing about the courts, and followed up with detailed recommendations for reform of the courts and mandated services. The City Council published a brief on the effectiveness of the HTICs, heavily citing the RedUP report, and reform work is ongoing.

Access to Condoms Campaign

Since 2009, I have been working to raise awareness and do advocacy around the issue of condoms being used as evidence of prostitution related offenses. Red Umbrella Project is one of the founding executive committee members of the Access to Condoms Coalition in New York. As part of the PROS Network, RedUP collaborated on the research and writing of the 2012 report Public Health Crisis: The Impact of Using Condoms as Evidence of Prostitution in New York City (download PDF, 74 pages). At RedUP, I organized lobby days in Albany twice, created a a series of fives comics that were mailed as postcards to state legislators, met with elected officials alongside RedUP members, and organized a direct action call-in to the Mayor’s office. The Access to Condoms campaign set national and international precedent with coalition work and achievement of wins with District Attorneys, a 2014 change in the NYPD patrol guide, and the 2015 passage of a partial ban of the use of condoms as evidence of prostitution in Governor Cuomo’s Budget.

This video was shot at the 2012 lobby day in Albany and premiered at the Lights. Camera. Help. Cause Driven Film Festival in 2013.

Media & Advocacy Workshops and Guides

RedUP-300x400CoverMediaToolI have been leading workshops designed specifically for sex workers who are interested in developing their skills as media spokespeople and policy advocates since 2006.

The Speak Up! Media Spokesperson Workshop was developed in 2006 for people with experience in the sex trades who want to speak publicly – in mainstream and community produced media – about their experiences and offer their political perspective on issues that affect our communities. The seminar teaches participants to create strategic responses to media and public events and builds skills as a media spokesperson. Download the media tactics guide here – 37 page PDF published by Red Umbrella Project in 2013, written by Audacia Ray.

The Speak Up! Legislative Advocacy for Change in New York Workshop was developed in 2010 to provide information and practice skills around the process of legislation in New York City and State,  why and how to make policy change, how to lobby elected officials, tips for strategic messaging, and more. Download the legislative advocacy guide here – 19 page PDF published by Red Umbrella Project in 2012, written by Audacia Ray and Eliyanna Kaiser.