American Social Hygiene Association.

Journal of social hygiene (Volume 28) online

. (page 49 of 71)
Online LibraryAmerican Social Hygiene AssociationJournal of social hygiene (Volume 28) → online text (page 49 of 71)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

of the country. It is significant, however, that within the past year 300 com-
munities have closed red-light districts; and that public opinion and action in
support of the policy of repression of prostitution have grown steadily in this
period. It is also significant that during this time the data on venereal diseases
indicate that rates as for example in the Army and Navy are already begin-
ning to go downward.


Studied by the

American Social Hygiene Association
September 193 9-8 ept ember 1942

First study showed

17. 2



Latest study showed

24. 8


During the three-year period, the percentage of communities rated ' ' bad ' ' dropped
by more than half, and general improvement in the group as a whole was noted.


Communities in which conditions were found to be

"Good" in "Fair "in "Poor "in " Bad" in

1st Study 1st Study 1st Study 1st Study

at time of latest study had changed as shown in graphs below.







22. 2


Of communities rated "good" in early studies, later studies showed that more
than half had slipped somewhat in law enforcement. None had become "bad"
however. On the other hand, among communities rated ' ' fair, " " poor ' ' and
' ' bad ' ' in the first studies, over 20 per cent in each class had achieved a
"good" rating.

In each class, however, the percentage of communities remaining "bad" and
the instances of "good" communities failing to hold that level, indicate the
need for steady vigilance of law enforcement authorities, backed up by strong,
informed public opinion.

Social Hygiene

VOL. 28 OCTOBER, 1942 NO. 7

Social Hygiene in Wartime. II.
Prostitution, Social Protection and the Police.


Director, Social Protection Section, Office of Defense Health and
Welfare Services, Washington, D. C.

When the Army, Navy and Federal Security Agency called
for the elimination of prostitution as a disease hazard to our
armed forces and war workers, they were issuing a direct
challenge to the law enforcement officers of America. This
was no ordinary challenge however. At stake are the
efficiency, health and welfare of the manpower and woman
power of a nation at war.

America's police officers are taking up this challenge. They
are recognizing their war-time responsibility for policing the
nation's health and welfare, patriotically and courageously.
Today known houses of prostitution and segregated red-light
districts have been closed in more than 300 communities
throughout the United States. These red-light districts, all
prolific sources of venereal infections for thousands of our
war manpower, have been closed by local police authorities in
cooperation with the Federal Government.



Spear-head of this new police offensive against prostitution is the
National Advisory Police Committee on Social Protection. Appointed
this June by Federal Security Administrator Paul V. McNutt, in
his capacity as Director of the Office of Defense Health and Welfare
Services, the Police Committee contains many of the country's out-
standing police leaders. Also represented on the Police Committee
are high-ranking officials of the War Department, Navy Department,
United States Public Health Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation,
Office of Defense Health and Welfare Services, and the American
Social Hygiene Association.

Mr. McNutt appointed this Police Committee to advise and make
recommendations to the Social Protection Section of the Office of
Defense Health and Welfare Services. This Section has the responsi-
bility for promoting the voluntary repression of prostitution by local
police authorities, together with the rehabilitation of the girls arrested
and the prevention of prostitution. One of the major tasks assigned
to this Police Committee is the development of new and effective police
techniques for the enforcement of both the repression and prevention
of prostitution.

One of the first acts of the National Committee of representative
police leaders was the unanimous endorsement of the Eight Point
Agreement as a national standard for law enforcement officers through-
out the United States.

Drawn up jointly by the War Department, Navy Department, and
the Federal Security Agency in 1940 as the official Federal policy for
the control of venereal disease, this Agreement calls for mutually
supporting legal, medical and public health measures. It stipu-
lates the quarantine of infected persons wherever necessary and
advocates an aggressive program of public education. The Executive
Board of the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the
State and Territorial health officers of the Nation, previously had
both endorsed this Agreement unanimously.

Point Six of that Agreement recognizes prostitution as the chief
source of venereal disease. It calls for the vigorous repression of
prostitution, both commercialized and clandestine, as a necessary
disease control. Under the provisions of the Agreement, responsibility
for repressing prostitution is placed with the local police authorities,
although the cooperation and assistance of the Army, Navy and
Federal Security Agency are pledged.

When members of the Police Committee were shown the military
and public health facts, they were quick to understand the need for a
policy of vigorous repression. These facts, based upon military and
public health records, show that 50 to 90 per cent of all prostitutes
are found upon examination to be venereally infected.

Contrary to popular belief, the prostitute is not able to "take care
of herself" and "protect" her client. Neither is anybody else. Mem-


bers of the Police Committee were shown that medical inspection of
the prostitute is a fraud that it cannot prevent the spread of venereal
disease. Every girl who engages in prostitution over a period of time
is certain to become infected.

When the National Advisory Police Committee verified that these
are established medical facts, testified to by both the American Medi-
cal Association and the United States Public Health Service, it saw
the immediate need for action by the law enforcement profession.

In its first report to Mr. McNutt, the Committee adopted unanim-
ously a program calling for the support of "a nation-wide policy of
vigorous repression and prevention, together with the social and
economic rehabilitation of the prostitute."

' ' This is a professional obligation which must be assumed (by local
police authorities) if the Army, Navy and war industries' personnel
are not to be decimated by casualties due to venereal disease," the
Committee declared.

Three Special Committees were appointed at this meeting to study
and make recommendations on the following subjects :

Enforcement for Repression.
Enforcement for Prevention.
Police Cooperation.

In its preliminary report, the Special Committee on Repression
adopted the following resolutions, which were later approved unanim-
ously by the National Committee :

1. That a survey of state laws and city ordinances be made, so
that a more effective police program for repression could be
developed and recommended for nation-wide adoption.

2. That the Federal Government give more attention to the
development of detention facilities in communities needing
such facilities as a result of a vigorous repression program.

3. That military and naval police cooperate more fully with local
police in obtaining evidence for court cases and in other
related phases of a repression program.

This Special Committee also recommended: "Special and vigorous
effort should be made to secure evidence against procurers, panderers,
and ' entrepreneurs ' for the purpose of conviction and with a view
toward breaking up the racket of commercialized vice."

The Police Committee has recognized the urgent need for getting
the true facts on prostitution and venereal disease before the general
public, as well as the police profession. Public attitudes in many
communities still cling to discredited theories of regulation and medi-
cal inspection of prostitutes. It pointed out that the American public


has still to be enlightened on this critical health problem and the
resultant need for a thoroughgoing repression program.

The anxiety of the National Advisory Police Committee over the
disease hazard of prostitution may readily be appreciated when the
military and public health history is reviewed. During World War I,
more American soldiers were treated for venereal disease than for gun
and shell wounds. Today, America's war manpower is again suf-
fering serious and needless losses. More than 100,000 of the first two
million men examined for Selective Service were rejected as unfit for
military service because of venereal disease. Moreover, public health
authorities estimate that more than 300,000 workers engaged in war
industries are infected with syphilis alone.

Yet this crippling of the nation's manpower by venereal disease
can be stopped. It can be stopped by local police authorities through
the vigorous repression of prostitution in their own communities.
Police and public health experience has proven that the venereal
disease rate is effectively reduced wherever prostitution is vigorously
repressed. The remedy to this disease problem lies to a large degree
in the hands of the local police authorities.

It is not enough, however, merely to arrest prostitutes who are
found to be venereally infected. Such an enforcement program meets
only a small part of the Federal social protection program. To begin
with, all prostitutes will become infected with venereal disease over
a period of time. The fact that a girl may or may not be venereally
infected at the time of her arrest is not the determining factor in
eliminating venereal disease. Prostitutes who are released because
there is no evidence of venereal infection are merely let loose to become
a future and certain disease menace to the community.

Thus, it is necessary to reduce to a minimum the number of present
and potential disease carriers in the community by enforcing the
repression of prostitution as such. While it is the function of the
health officer to reduce venereal disease, he can only do this effec-
tively when the police officers reduce the number of the prostitutes
who spread the disease.

An important part of the work of the National Advisory Police
Committee is to get across to the local police authorities the necessity
for supporting voluntarily the Federal repression program. The
Federal agencies responsible for the health and welfare of the Armed
Forces and war workers prefer to let local communities handle their
own enforcement problems. That is the voluntary and what we would
like to think of as the "American Way."

However, should local police authorities prove themselves incapable
of or unwilling to attack prostitution within their own communi-
ties, the Federal Government has full authority to take action
against this disease hazard. That authority is provided in Public
Law 163, popularly known as the May Act.


Passed by Congress in 1941 at the request of military and public
health authorities, this Act recognizes prostitution as a threat to the
efficiency, health and welfare of the armed forces. Under the May
Act, it is a Federal offense for anyone to engage in prostitution activi-
ties in such zones as the Secretary of War or Navy shall set up near
any military or naval camp or station. The Secretary of War or
Navy is empowered to order its invocation whenever in his opinion
conditions warrant such action.

Invocation of the May Act gives full authority to the Department
of Justice to move into the designated area and supplement local
policing in repressing prostitution. Responsibility for administering
the Act rests with the Secretaries of War and Navy and the Federal
Security Administrator.

To date the May Act has only been invoked twice. In both cases, it
was because vice conditions were beyond the control of under-manned
police authorities. In neither case was it due to any unwillingness on
the part of the local police officers to cooperate with the Federal

The National Advisory Police Committee is performing an invalu-
able service to the police profession as well as to the country by
getting law enforcement officers to understand and actively support
the nation-wide mobilization against prostitution and its counterpart,
venereal disease. Through the courageous leadership of the Inter-
national Association of Chiefs of Police, a splendid beginning has
already been made in this direction.

A very serious problem that the Police Committee is expected to
devote a great deal of study to is wholly apart from the immediate
and pressing problem of repression. None the less, it is a community
responsibility which local police authorities must recognize and
which the community must attempt to deal with intelligently. That is,
their responsibility for the health and welfare of the girls themselves.

While much attention has recently been given to the problem of
delinquent and pre-delinquent boys, less consideration has been given
to that of delinquent and pre-delinquent girls. Girls engaged in
prostitution are usually the victims of social and economic conditions.
They deserve a decent chance to earn a living wage in legitimate
employment, and local communities have a responsibility for their

Full attention was given to the urgent need of meeting this problem
by the National Advisory Police Committee. A unanimous resolution
was passed by the Committee supporting a program for the social
and economic rehabilitation of the girls arrested, together with the
prevention of prostitution. Such a program will naturally necessitate
the support and cooperation of all the social and welfare forces of
the local communities. Essentially, this problem is the responsibility
of the whole community, although the police authorities can assume
a large portion.


In its first report, which was approved by the National Committee,
the Special Committee on Enforcement for Prevention declared that
a program for the prevention of prostitution faces the following
problems :

1. Lack of adequate and wholesome recreational facilities.

2. Lack of employment opportunities for youth.

3. Lack of early contact, early identification, and early treatment
of youthful offenders.

The following positive measures were advocated :

1. Constructive cooperation by the police department and public
and private welfare agencies.

2. Adequate and proper detention facilities.

3. Adequate and proper enforcement of regulations as to employ-
ment of youths in cafes, taverns, honky-tonks, and other places
of commercial recreation, by other public agencies charged
therewith. This is to include working conditions, hours, wages,
and adherence to age limitations.

Unfortunately, many communities who want to carry on a thorough
social protection program are finding themselves handicapped by lack
of proper detention facilities, medical social workers and expert advice.
The Federal agencies responsible for the Federal Social Protection
program will offer every possible assistance to such communities.

CCC Camps will be made available as quarantine hospitals and
detention centers to States in which an acute shortage of such facilities
exist. This has been made possible through the cooperation of the
War Department, Office of Defense Health and Welfare Services and
the United States Public Health Service. Standards of care in
such hospitals will follow the recommendations of the United States
Public Health Service. Eesponsibility for operating these hospitals
will be in the hands of the State Health departments.

Maintenance and operation funds for these CCC hospitals may be
obtained from the Federal Works Agency by States needing such
funds. Applications for these funds are filed with the Works Project
Administration state offices.

Consultant service in the Federal Social Protection program is
available to communities from the Social Protection Section and
Family Security Committee of the Office of Defense Health and
Welfare Services, and from the United States Public Health Service.
Consultant service is also available from the American Social
Hygiene Association.

The National Advisory Police Committee will soon make available
to local police authorities a series of pamphlets on the social protection
program, specially written for police officers by outstanding leaders in
the police profession. The Committee is also planning to supply an


information service to all local police officers, giving them the latest
developments in the police field on the social protection front.

Today, the venereal disease rate of the Army and Navy, although
still far from satisfactory, is the lowest in the war-time history of the
two services. Despite the alarums and dire prophecies of many
critics of repression who were either honestly misinformed or whose
financial interests were at stake, the more than 300 communities
which clamped down on prostitution have not experienced great crime
waves, or increases in rape cases. On the contrary, the closing down
of the houses of ill-fame, which often serve as criminal resorts and
hide-outs, has frequently resulted in corresponding improvements
in the criminal situation.

Most important of all, however, is the clear-cut proof that the
vigorous repression of prostitution definitely reduces the number
of venereal infections originating in the communities affected. Repres-
sion has proven itself a practical and thoroughly effective police
procedure for the control of venereal disease.

The National Advisory Police Committee has recognized, however,
that the repression of prostitution, while a necessary control, is not
the only measure. To protect the health and welfare of the armed
forces, war workers, and the girls engaged in prostitution, an intelli-
gent over-all social protection program is necessary. Such a program
must provide for the social and economic rehabilitation of the girls
arrested as well as the fundamental measures for attacking conditions
which breed prostitution.

The Social Protection Section is extremely fortunate in having such
capable and outstanding police leaders assisting in the formulation
of the Federal Social Protection program. With their guidance and
the support of local law enforcement officers, the Nation may rest
assured that the attack on the police front of our war-time health
will be repulsed.

". . . In cities which have established the policy of attacking prosti-
tution, not compromising with it, prostitution is on the run. It is furtive
and hard to find. It is not flaunted in the faces of its citizens, but is
in hiding. In consequence, the volume of business done by prostitutes is
less by 75 per cent than in those cities which, giving up the fight, have
knuckled under to the vice racketeers."


in We Need Not Tolerate Prostitution,


Made by the Committee on Prostitution and the Women's Court of the
Welfare Council of New York City

Upon the completion of its investigation and report * on
the apprehension, trial and treatment of 3,670 cases of prosti-
tution in the Women's Court, the Welfare Council of New
York City asked the undersigned Committee of citizens to
study the findings and to draft recommendations on the pro-
cedures that it considers necessary to a more effective effort
to bring the business of prostitution in New York City down
to a minimum.

As a preface to its recommendations the Committee wishes
to state briefly its convictions as to (1) the evils attendant
upon the practice itself, (2) the phases of it that are matters
of public policy and (3) the aspects of it that are susceptible
of modification through the exercise of the police power of
the State.

Evils attendant upon the practice of prostitution.

It is the belief of this Committee that the anonymous and com-
pletely promiscuous sex relations facilitated by prostitution and char-
acterized by absence of affection, respect and concern of the partners
for each other, tend to evoke psychological reactions and emotions in
them which make mutually responsible sex relations more difficult of
satisfactory achievement. For many, the practice of prostitution
brings loss of self-respect and many other serious social consequences.
The common prostitute's life is so fraught with elements of social
repugnance and future deterioration as to make her lot wholly
incompatible with those democratic principles which are assumed to
motivate our public programs and intolerable in a social order which
has no place for outcasts.

* Prostitutes in New York City : Their Apprehension, Trial and Treatment,
July 1939-June 1940, by Marguerite Marsh, report of a study made under the
auspices of the Welfare Council's Research Committee at the request of the
Section on Protective and Correctional Care of the Welfare Council. The
study was made by the Research Bureau, of which Dr. Neva R. Deardorff is
Director, and with the cooperation and approval of Chief Magistrate Curran of
the Women's Court; and was financed by a special grant from the Greater New
York Fund.



Besides these harmful psychological effects upon the prostitute and
her customer, there are other extremely serious evils related to
promiscuity in sex relations. One of these is the rapid transmission
of the venereal diseases. These infections are spread not only among
those who have illicit sex relations but are also carried, often with
tragic consequences, to innocent members of their families. Incalcul-
able physical suffering, economic loss and unhappiness follow in
their train.

Another evil that prostitution encourages comes from the oppor-
tunity that it creates for the exploitation of both the prostitute and
her customer by persons who act as intermediaries, organizers, opera-
tors and protectors of the business. When a prostitute attempts to
operate in a community that does not tolerate open and flagrant solici-
tation, she utilizes go-betweens to provide her with customers. She
also seeks to secure a degree of immunity from interference by
official action. This immunity can sometimes be purchased through
politicians or racketeers from corrupt officials. When she is arrested,
it may also be obtained by the employment of clever and unscrupulous
lawyers to outwit the public officials.

Prostitutes who utilize the services of third parties generally find
themselves enmeshed in a system which directs how and where they
operate, takes most of their earnings, and makes it difficult if not
impossible for them to abandon prostitution and enter legitimate

With the organization of commercialized vice comes active and
aggressive promotion of it in the recruiting both of prostitutes and
customers and the community finds itself with a growing group of
people whose interest it is to perpetuate a business engaged in
debauching and degrading their fellow citizens.

And finally, organized prostitution has proved a highly dangerous
institution to government itself. It can go on only ( 1 ) if the citizenry
is indifferent, with resulting inertia and inefficiency of officers, or
(2) with corruption of officials, or (3) as has been said, through the
devices of persons capable of defeating the efforts of honest officials
trying to enforce the laws. All of these conditions undermine and
weaken the power and prestige of the public authority.

Phases of prostitution subject to public action.

Since American society bans prostituted sex relations as anti-social
and this State holds them illegal, the duty devolves upon the com-
munity to develop methods of general education that will improve
personal conduct and methods of administering its law-enforcing
agencies that will achieve the expressed intent of its laws. It also has
the duty to protect offenders against exploitation by third parties

Online LibraryAmerican Social Hygiene AssociationJournal of social hygiene (Volume 28) → online text (page 49 of 71)