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Journal of social hygiene (Volume 28) online

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because of the illegal status of their acts.

Such a duty carries the further obligation to choose carefully the
methods by which to proceed; poor methods not only achieve little
or nothing but can actually aggravate some of the evils cited above,


notably the dependence of the prostitute upon third parties and the
weakening of respect for government. As in the case of the State's
attempts to deal with other types of offenders, those procedures which
actually succeed in deflecting persons convicted of prostitution from
continuing in the practice and which make sure that the former
prostitute has a legitimate means of livelihood, are the most efficient
and economical as well as the most humane.

The Committee believes that there is increasing public support of
the more enlightened and discriminating courses of action in dealing
with individual prostitutes because people in America are now con-
siderably less harsh and hysterical in their condemnation of those who
do not achieve acceptable sex relations than was formerly true. How-
ever strongly their practices may be disapproved, such persons are
coming more and more to be regarded as subjects for educational,
medical, psychiatric and social, rather than punitive, treatment, or,
if their maladjustment is such as seriously to endanger others, to
regard them as subjects for custodial restraint.

Among the many complex and baffling phases of prostitution there
are five which seem not only to be invested with public interest but
also to call for direct action by public authorities and to be amenable
to such action. These are:

1. Open and provocative solicitation by either males or females
in public places and by means of the press, the mails, telephones and
other public utilities.

2. The organization and promotion of prostitution as a gainful
occupation and the active participation in its profits by third parties.

3. The exploitation of youth by sex aggressors and gain-seeking
third parties.

4. The transmission of venereal disease.

5. The corruption of law-enforcement agencies.

The exercise of the police powers of the State.

The Committee regards these five phases of the problem the most
strategic points at which the police powers of the State can be
employed to keep prostitution at a minimum in this city.

The Committee believes that it is possible to keep the streets of
New York City virtually free of open solicitation. Investigation and
studies indicate that this condition has at various times been accom-
plished with a large measure of success.

There is also reason to believe that the elimination of gain to third
parties constitutes the most effective mode not only of freeing the
streets of solicitation but of striking a blow at the other means by
which prostitution is practiced. If all other forms of business live
at the sufferance of society this one would seem to be no exception
and can at least be greatly discouraged by the energetic and persistent
exercise of public authority.


The protection of children and youth against sex aggressors and
exploiters is of great public concern. It too requires energetic and
intelligent administration, able to distinguish between deliberate
economic exploitation, pathological sex aggression and the sex misbe-
havior of normal but immature young persons. These are quite
distinct social situations which should not be allowed to become
confused either in law or in its enforcement.

The stamping out of the venereal diseases is an important public
health objective at any time and one of specially great urgency in
time of war. As has been said, prostitution quickens the transmis-
sion of these infections and its suppression becomes a necessity not
only in the interests of conserving manpower both in the military
and the civilian population but also for releasing medical resources
for other uses arising out of war conditions. Since prostitution is
not solely responsible for the transmission of these infections and
since there are evils attached to it other than the transmission of
disease, a combination of police, public health and social programs
for dealing with prostitutes, their customers and third parties has
to be developed. Even to cope with the factor of disease, more is
required than medical measures alone.

The Committee believes that the laws relating to public morality
and to health should be fully integrated and harmonized with each
other. They should be administered in the light of the increasing
understanding of psychologic and social maladjustments often
underlying prostitution and in the light of the ways in which pros-
titution as a business is now fostered.

Finally, a phase of prostitution that cannot be ignored is its
strong tendency to resist law-enforcement through chicanery in the
courts and corruption of government. 1 These are evils which, if
allowed to flourish for one type of offense, do not stop there. The
shyster lawyers, runners, bail bondsmen and accommodating court
clerks and the complacent judiciary who through indifference pro-
tect the institution of prostitution cannot be counted upon for the
vigilant enforcement of other laws. Officials who actually have been
corrupted become, like the prostitutes themselves, incapable of
changing their ways as long as their corruptors choose to use the
power that they have acquired.

It is therefore of genuine importance to the cause of good govern-
ment that venality should not be tolerated in any form. Continuous
accounting by the law-enforcement agents for their activity, the
development of professional attitudes toward their work and the
support and appreciation by the public of a hard task well done
can do much to render government officials immune to the hazards
that prostitution presents.

i The Committee has no evidence that there has been chicanery in the Women 's
Court or corruption of government in New York City, but this tendency on the
part of prostitution is so strong that it must be listed as among the great
hazards which it brings to the community.


As an expression of its general point of view on the possibility
of bringing prostitution under control, the Committee can find no
better statement than that written by Abram Flexner in his classic
treatise on this subject: 2

"What would conceivably happen in a city like London if the police, spurred
and controlled by an active popular impulse, accomplished all that could
be humanly expected? Street- walking of a provocative character would
disappear; the advertised brothel would cease to exist; the public house
(saloon) would strictly enforce the law against the harboring of prostitutes;
the obvious forms of spurious employment would be dispersed rendered
more circumspect and much less readily accessible ; prostitutes would dis-
appear from the lobby and promenade of the variety theaters, etc. The pimp,
the exploiter, the third-party interest would be severely checked and, with
that, the tropical growth due to them. ... In a word, prostitution as an
offensive and aggressive activity would be more or less done for; and the
loss through disease would be minimized.

"What would be gained? The inducement to enter the life or to persist
in it would be lessened; the total volume of business and the volume trans-
acted by any one woman would be decreased; the financial waste would be
less; the amount of disease disseminated would be less; the demoralization
of the woman would often be less complete, less overwhelming, less irre-
trievable ; surely, very important gains.

"Well drawn, well codified, well executed laws could accomplish this. Any
civilized society utilizing the resources and instrumentalities that every such
society has within its reach, can, if really so minded, ultimately reduce
prostitution and its ravages so far by direct action.

"It is well worth doing; it is, humanly speaking, a possible undertaking,
even though, I repeat, nowhere as yet by any means accomplished. Let us
not, however, deceive ourselves into thinking that such a direct frontal attack
absolves us from effort in other and different directions. Further achievement
depends upon alterations in the constitution of society and its component
parts. In so far as prostitution is the outcome of ignorance, laws and police
are powerless; only knowledge will aid. In so far as prostitution is the
outcome of mental or moral defect, laws and police are powerless; only the
intelligent guardianship of the state will avail. In so far as prostitution is
the outcome of natural impulses denied a legitimate expression, only a rational-
ized social life will really forestall it. In so far as prostitution is due to
alcohol, to illegitimacy, to broken homes, to bad homes, to low wages, to
wretched industrial conditions to any or all of the particular phenomena
respecting which the modern conscience is becoming sensitive only a trans-
formation wrought by education, religion, science, sanitation, enlightened and
far-reaching statesmanship can effect a cure. Our attitude towards prostitu-
tion, in so far as these factors are concerned, cannot embody itself in a special
remedial or repressive policy, for in this sense, it must be dealt with as
part of the larger social problems with which it is inextricably entangled."

The Committee's Recommendations.

The recommendations which follow are based not only upon the
convictions and beliefs of the Committee but also, as has been said
above, upon a recent careful examination by the Research Bureau
of the Welfare Council of the facts with regard to the apprehension,
trial and disposition of prostitution cases in the Women's Court in
New York City.

In formulating its recommendations the Committee has been
mindful of the fact that a thoroughgoing attack on the problem

2 Prostitution in Europe, Century Company, New York, 1914.


of prostitution in a city of the size and complexity of New York
requires more than administrative action by police and judicial
authorities, as Dr. Flexner has so effectively pointed out. The
recommendations presented here are steps which can be taken at
once to improve procedures in prostitution cases and to lessen the
more damaging effects of the present methods. They should, how-
ever, be accompanied by further study and action both on matters
that relate to more deeply seated problems of law and administra-
tion which require more far-reaching measures for their solution,
and on social conditions, the modification of which cannot be accom-
plished by public administration. These social conditions have their
roots in the attitudes and beliefs of the public generally and their
modification can be accomplished only through the concern of
influential persons and groups to see that all possible steps are taken
to cut down the numbers of persons who are impelled to resort to
prostitution either as a means of livelihood or as a way of meeting
their emotional needs.

Common to both categories of legal measures is the need for a
clearer articulation of the objectives toward which the administra-
tion of police measures is to aim. Both laws and administrative
procedures require clarity of purpose before ways and means to
accomplishment can be efficiently devised and achievement appraised.
The Committee believes that the five phases of the problem cited
above, furnish tangible objectives, are susceptible of modification
through the exercise of the police power, and are now the logical
starting points both in the improvement of the law itself and in
the development of more effective administrative procedures.

The recommendations for immediate steps requiring no further
study or debate, relate to :

1. More vigorous prosecution of third parties through the use of
plain-clothes officers as detectives to repress the business of

2. Better methods of suppressing street solicitation.

3. Methods of dealing with prostitutes, arrested either on the
streets or elsewhere, in the Women's Court:

a. Assignment of cases to this Court

b. Selection of Magistrates to sit in this Court

c. Legal defense of the accused woman

d. The disposition of cases found guilty; use of probation and available
institutions with programs of rehabilitation

e. Improvement of the social and medical services employed by the Court
and allied departments

The committee's specific recommendations on these several points
of attack, follow:


Police Department.

1. The repression of the business of prostitution.

a. As its first recommendation the Committee urges the more
active prosecution of third parties in the business of prostitution.
These persons and agencies include the operators of houses of
prostitution and procurers, together with the spurious employment
agencies, the hotel employees, the taxicab drivers and the dance
hall proprietors and managers who cooperate with them, and all
of the other accessories of the business. Much more active investi-
gation and prosecution of these offenders could be carried out if
the force of plain-clothes policemen now detailed to the apprehen-
sion of the individual women were given this responsibility.

b. Continuous analysis of the performance of all officers, both
those in uniform and in plain-clothes, of their activities in this
sphere, by the Police Department itself seems essential if its admin-
istration is to be steadily improved. Some of the police personnel
now being used for ineffective services directed toward the indi-
vidual prostitute could be used for developing a more adequate
system by means of which third parties would be more often appre-
hended with sufficient evidence to convict.

2. The suppression of street solicitation.

a. It is recommended that the regular force of patrolmen and
patrolwomen be instructed in such procedures as will, so far as is
possible, prevent solicitation and provocative behavior on the streets
and other public places. A more effective system of patrolling by
the uniformed force especially in areas in which prostitution is now
rife should lead to fewer offenses on the streets and a reduction in
the number of arrests of individual prostitutes for street solicitation.

The efficiency of the patrolmen's and patrolwomen's efforts to
maintain public order and decency should be checked, not by the
number of arrests they make but by the presence or absence of
street solicitation as observed by their supervisory officers or
other competent observers.

Patrolling of public places by military police adds to this public
vigilance in so far as men in uniform are concerned and serves as a
further restraint on those who seek to solicit the men in the armed

b. It is recommended that all arresting officers and all magistrates
now hearing these cases observe closely the Code of Criminal Pro-
cedure, Section 887 (4) and the rules of evidence as laid down by
the appellate courts so that a minimum of disagreement will arise
between the police and courts as to the character of admissible
evidence in these cases. 1

i This is not meant to imply that the magistrates are now careless in these
matters but that this is a difficult subject which would profit by further clarifi-
cation as between police and court procedures.


c. It is recommended that no woman be detained in police station
houses but that all detention be provided for at the House of

The Women's Court.

1. It is recommended that all cases in which sex morals and the
business of prostitution are an issue be concentrated in one court.
The purpose of the Women's Court is not served as long as cases of
"disorderly conduct" of young women sex offenders are left in
the district courts.

2. It is further recommended that to this Court be permanently
assigned a limited number of magistrates (not more than four or
five) chosen for their competence in dealing with cases of this type.

3. It is recommended that these magistrates be charged with
responsibility for drafting a code of procedure governing the judges
themselves and the Court attaches in dealing with these cases.
Among these matters are:

a. Arrangement of the Court calendar so that attorneys cannot
maneuver to bring their cases into the court of a given magistrate.

b. Establishment of a more orderly atmosphere in the surround-
ings of the Court. The registration of visitors with notation of
the prisoner in whom they are interested would discourage prurient
curiosity seekers. The provision of small cubicles in which lawyers
could interview clients would tend to keep them out of the passage-
ways. The clearance of the streets adjacent and of the building of
hangers-on and runners would also contribute to this more orderly

c. The setting of a time limit for postponements of the trial
of a woman released on bail, so as to reduce the possibility of her
immediate resort to prostitution to meet the cost of her legal defense.

4. Arrangements should be made through a responsible agency
such as the New York Legal Aid Society, for legal defense, with
competent service offered to each arrested woman so that she will
not be dependent upon persons interested to exploit her. In this
connection a continuous analysis of the roster of lawyers now
defending prostitution cases would be enlightening. Tabulation of
all of the prostitution cases defended by a given lawyer in a year
would reveal one aspect of the way in which organized prostitution
is working and would indicate to the magistrate the forces back
of the woman appearing before him.

5. A sworn statement by the attorney as to the agreement regard-
ing his fee, its amount, date when payment is due, and source of
payment, should be required.

6. Defendants posting bail should be required to file a sworn
statement as to its source, this information to be made a part of the
record which the magistrate reads before sentence is passed. Analy-


sis of the sources of bail and of the cases securing bail from the
same source would be a step in seeing how the "system" works.

7. The probation department and the selected magistrates should
formulate a new and simplified form of verified information on the
pertinent factors of each case, such as age, family resources, earn-
ing capacity, previous history, venereal disease, to be submitted
routinely to the magistrate before sentence is passed. Routine
submission to the magistrate, after the woman's conviction, of the
data on file with the probation department about her previous his-
tory, should be followed.

8. The need for a more uniform practice with regard to sentences,
based on the facts of the case, and for more consistent use of pro-
bation in appropriate cases seems obvious.

9. The use of the suspended sentence and the short-term commit-
ment should be revised with a view to their elimination as methods
of treatment in cases of women convicted of prostitution. The
use of probation and of commitment to institutions that have pro-
grams of rehabilitation should replace them. This would greatly
relieve the overcrowding at the House of Detention and would
secure for more women the advantages of the health and welfare
facilities of several excellent institutions.

10. After conviction and before sentence, the magistrates should
consult with the probation department and with the heads of the
various institutions to which commitments are made, to evolve plans
in individual cases that give the most promise of genuine rehabilitation.

11. The routine psychologic testing and psychiatric examination
of the woman after conviction would be of material assistance to
judges in making proper and effective dispositions of these cases
and to probation officers in evolving plans for their guidance and
supervision. While the institutions are provided with the services
of psychologists and psychiatrists, they can function as aids in
commitment only to correct errors after they have been made. A
study looking to the provision of such services is now in process and
will shortly be prepared to specify in some detail the way in
which it should operate for these cases.

The Health Department.

The procedure in the release by the Health Department of women
with venereal disease in active stages, whether immediately after
trial or after admission to the Kingston Avenue Hospital, should
be the subject of special inquiry and analysis. This inquiry should
establish the results of this procedure to date to make sure that it
provides genuine safeguards to public health. The list of physicians
who undertake to supervise the regime of these women and the
addresses at which they claim to have arranged for isolation should
be carefully examined. Methods should be clearly established by
which the Department will protect these women from becoming the
victims of unscrupulous physicians and other third parties.


The Hospital Department.

The treatment of patients with venereal disease in the municipal
hospitals is one of medical measures. It does not concern itself with
the problem of the methods by which these women are to be helped
to avoid repetition of the experiences that led to their infection
and to their court appearance. Social services properly adminis-
tered could do much to secure for these women environmental
conditions both within the hospital itself and after their release
that would offer some protection from such repetition. Classifi-
cation within the hospital of the several types of offenders is as
necessary as it is in the correctional institution. Vocational educa-
tion and probationary supervision, as well as medical treatment
and health education, are required for many of these women and
girls if it is expected that they will henceforth gain a livelihood
from an acceptable occupation.

As has been said, the list of recommendations given above con-
cerns itself with matters which can be the subjects of immediate
administrative action. Back of them lie several serious legal prob-
lems which the Committee believes to be of great importance but
which require further study before action can be initiated. More-
over, these matters require not only technical study but the
emergence of more clearly defined public opinion before there will
be a basis of sound action. These matters are :

1. The clarification of the laws themselves that relate to prostitution. The
present statutes are not as clear and precise as they should be and the court
decisions which define their operation have not overcome their defects.

2. The adaptation of the rules of evidence as applied in prostitution cases.
The nature of this offense and the methods employed for the apprehension of
offenders create peculiar difficulties in the collection and presentation of evidence.
If the trials of these offenders are to be conducted on a high plane of judicial
procedure, the rules applied in them should be carefully reviewed and revised in
the interest of protecting both the public and the defendant's legal rights.

3. The extension of the privileges of bail to persons accused of prostitution.
Safeguards to insure that the prostitute cannot resume her illegal activity while
on bail should be evolved.

4. Measures for the removal of the incorrigible prostitute from society. These
have not been established, although other types of incorrigible offenders have been
the subjects of legislation in this State which considers not only the nature of
each of the person's specific offenses but also their recurrence.

This Committee is not prepared at this time to offer recommenda-
tions on these subjects other than that (1) they should be the sub-
jects of investigation, and study, by properly qualified groups and
officials, of public discussion and, if necessary, of legislation and
(2) that steps toward the solution of these problems should be
inaugurated at once.

And finally, your Committee wishes to point out that it conceives
it to be the highest duty of the State to give sufficient attention to
each of these cases to determine what type of preventive measures,


had they been efficiently applied, would have saved the convicted
prostitute from entering such a career and would have saved the
community from the menace which she presents and from the
expense of her restraint. Given such knowledge all of the social

Online LibraryAmerican Social Hygiene AssociationJournal of social hygiene (Volume 28) → online text (page 50 of 71)