Posted on August 28, 2012 at 4:47 PM
Tuesday, Aug 28 at 6:57 PM
SAN ANTONIO – “The majority are there for thefts, or possession or selling narcotics,” said Bexar County Sheriff Amadeo Ortiz. Ortiz was talking about the hundreds of women who end up incarcerated in the county jail. Many of them add prostitution to their resume of crimes.
Now, there is a push by some Texas lawmakers to replace incarceration with treatment programs for those who deal sex on the streets.
County leaders like Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Adkisson agree it is time to re-think a 2001 “three-strikes-and-you’re-out” felony law.
“When you have 80 percent of your jail that’s been there not once, not twice, not three times but five, 10, 15, 20 times. That’s ludicrous. You have no correction going on,” said Adkisson.
According to the Austin-American Statesman, more than 350 women occupy state prison space, at a cost of around $6 million each year. In Texas, prostitution can become a third degree felony after three misdemeanor convictions.
Sheriff Ortiz said he welcomes a change in the law, because valuable bed space is taken up by prostitutes, who use the county jail as a sort of safe-house, to escape harm they encounter on the streets.
“Some of these women need a break, so they can break that endless cycle of going to jail and coming out. So, I would agree that just sending them to prison is not the answer,” said Ortiz.
Right now, Ortiz said the only programs that may help prostitutes clean-up are located at the Haven for Hope.
Defense attorney Jamie Balagia once worked the streets of Austin as a vice officer, before practicing law in San Antonio. He said many of the women he encountered on the other side of the law were eager to leave prostitution - if they had a way out.
Balagia said rehab programs cost thousands less than incarceration and could turn a woman’s life around for the better.
“So many of them are forced into it. They’re beaten, they’re drugged, and they’re threatened. Their families are threatened. What good does the police department do by arresting these girls?” Balagia asks.