Harris County Seeks To Penalize Sex Workers Through ‘Nuisance’ Lawsuit

Critics argue the measure ignores the fact that many sex workers are victims of crime themselves.

By Kristen CabreraMay 3, 2019 2:02 pm,

A lawsuit filed by Harris County seeks to impose civil penalties on sex workers in the Bissonnet Track, a Houston area notorious for human trafficking and prostitution.

Houston Chronicle reporter Gabrielle Banks has been covering the legal action as part of her three-part series “The Track”. She says the lawsuit is only the second of its kind in the country.

“There are nuisance injunctions, and they are usually against places that have nuisance conduct going on either prostitution or violence or drug dens,” Banks says. “This was an injunction on people.”

The lawsuit, which targets 86 “nuisance” individuals, is scheduled for a hearing in fall 2019. If a judge signs off on it, these sex workers, their pimps and their customers will face fines in addition to possible criminal charges. Critics argue the measure ignores the fact that most sex workers are victims, not perpetrators.  

“Anti-trafficking advocates and support people in the anti-trafficking and ex-prostitute support group community say that it’s unfair to treat prostitutes and trafficking victims as the problem, as a nuisance,” Banks says.

One of the women named in the suit was already dead at the time of the announcement, and another died less than two weeks later.

“These are people whose lives are really on the edge,” Banks says.

In addition, advocates have complained about vague language in the suit.

“If you stand in that neighborhood and wave to somebody that could be seen as a violation of the terms of the injunction,” Banks says.


Written by Sol Chase.