Tuesday it will be official… indoor prostitution, for many years legal in the State of Rhode Island, is officially illegal. The House overwhelmingly approved a bill to close the loophole in RI law that inadvertently allowed prostitution. The previous law only made solicitation illegal, so that a prostitute could be arrested for “walking the streets.” The law, however, did not explicitly ban exchanging sex for money, so the Providence Phoenix and Craigslist, have been a haven for consenting adults to legally get together. Not to mention the dozens of strip clubs and Asian massage parlors throughout the State.
Governor Carcieri is set to sign the law into effect on Tuesday. A fight was made to prevent the passing of the law. Opponents of the new law pointed out that making the activity illegal will not rid the State of prostitution but will force women to hide their activity where they are more likely to be harmed by dangerous “johns” or pimps. In the end, I guess the legislature did not want to be known as the only prostitute friendly State outside of Nevada.
One could argue that the impetus to close this loophole began with the documentary film “Happy Endings” which illustrated the plight of woman trafficked from Asia for sex and living in squalor at one of Rhode Island’s many infamous massage parlors. The film thrust Rhode Island into the spotlight, particularly among those unfamiliar with the State’s prostitution laws.
The legislation will make prostitution that occurs in brothels, strip clubs, homes or other indoor venues a criminal misdemeanor punishable for first offenders by up to six months in prison and fines of up to $1,000, or both. Prostitutes convicted of multiple offenses would face up to a year in prison and fines of up $1,000, or both