Exercising Discretion

Exercising Discretion

A Handbook for Advocates and District Attorneys Navigating the Possibilities and Impacts of Non-Prosecution Policies in the Context of Sex Work Criminalization

Exercising Discretion handbook cover
This handbook seeks to support sex worker rights advocates, prosecutors, policy makers and other stakeholders to develop, influence, track and assess the operation and impact of DA non-prosecution policies so that they protect and promote sex workers’ rights and health, and mitigate the harms of the criminal law, to the greatest extent possible in the context of sex work criminalization.

It presents the scope of charges that DAs should decline to prosecute under a Model Policy, underscoring the importance of not prosecuting the range of offenses that may be used to surveil, control, and punish sex workers, clients and third parties. It also provides a series of Landscape Analysis Questions to support readers in navigating the information included in the handbook, compiling issues or factors that have arisen in the implementation of existing policies to date, across policy development and communication, key policy elements, and points of influence. It also contains a primer with foundational information on district attorneys, criminal law and sex work.

Download the handbook here.

The handbook, and the information it contains, is intended to be used and shared widely by those engaged in varied DA non-prosecution policies and the different contexts of their implementation to support sex workers’ rights. To this end, it contains Information Sheets formatted as stand-alone documents that advocates may print or send as part of advocacy or education efforts with DAs or other stakeholders, exploring:

Exercising Discretion is also accompanied by a printable Community Guide that provides an overview of the main findings and recommendations for model DA policies. 

The handbook was developed through dedicated student work as part of GHJP clinic projects, in cooperation with the Sex Workers Project of the Urban Justice Center, and with the support of the Gruber Project for Global Justice and Women's Rights, and the Open Society Foundations.