Supporting sex worker health, rights and advocacy in New Haven

For the past several years, the GHJP has been engaged in national and global work to support the health and rights of people involved in the sex sector. While the work began as a national research project on criminal laws and court-based “diversion” programs impacting people who sell sex, since 2017, the GHJP has partnered with a New Haven-based grassroots harm reduction organization led by and for current and former street-based sex workers called the Sex Workers and Allies Network (SWAN). In our local projects with SWAN, the GHJP hopes to engage ethically and in politically reflective ways with sex workers and other historically marginalized communities, with particular attention to the tensions, perils and potentials of our positionality and working in NH from within Yale University.

GHJP/SWAN projects collectively seek to enhance SWAN’s capacity to advocate for and serve the needs of people involved in selling sex on the streets of NH. Currently this work has two main components: an analysis of, and advocacy on an ongoing City policing initiative, and a peer-led needs assessment survey.

The first component of our collaboration involves an  investigation and analysis of a City-led criminal “diversion” initiative currently being developed in NH under the rubric of a pre-arrest/pre-booking model known as LEAD (Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion). Our investigation begins with the understanding that any criminal legal system involvement and police contact carries potential for harm to health, rights, wellbeing and dignity, and that this harm disproportionately arises in the case of marginalized and criminalized communities, including people who sell sex. This work in NH on LEAD and people in the sex sector is guided in part by the 2018 American Public Health Association statement on law enforcement violence as a public health issue, as well as by ecosocial theory, as developed by Dr. Nancy Krieger, which asserts that social injustices become biologically embodied and have direct health effects.

Our research thus far has suggested the City of NH is not conducting the LEAD program according to the APHA guidelines, the LEAD National Support Bureau’s core principles, or widely-accepted harm reduction practices that would reduce the risks associated with criminal legal system involvement. The GHJP supports SWAN in developing engagement and advocacy strategies with NH’s pilot LEAD program to increase the accountability and transparency of the City and other actors (police, service providers, etc.), as well as to create mechanisms for meaningful community input and leadership. For detailed information on our research and criticisms related to LEAD in NH, please visit our watch site: https://leadwatchsite.wixsite.com/newhaven.

The other major aspect of the GHJP partnership with SWAN involves supporting the organization structurally as it expands its scope and infrastructure. This includes working with SWAN to develop, implement and analyze a peer-led demographics and needs assessment survey that will help SWAN better understand the NH service landscape and gaps in social and structural resources for their communities. SWAN will be able to use the information collected from these surveys in grant applications, collaborations with external partners, advocacy efforts to improve service accessibility and systems functioning, and in strengthening SWAN’s programming and outreach activities.

Partners
Sex Workers and Allies Network of New Haven

Connecticut Bail Fund

HIPS

Publications

Global Health Justice Partnership, Sex Workers and Allies Network, "Mistreatment and Missed Opportunities: How Street-Based Sex Workers are Overpoliced and Underserved in New Haven, CT" (July 2020) (available here)

In the News

Press Release: GHJP and Community Partner Report Surveys Perspectives and Service Needs of New Haven Sex Workers (July 2020)

Resources

Supporting Sex Worker Health, Rights, and Advocacy in New Haven, CT: A Reflection Memo on the Process of Conducting a Peer-based Needs Assessment Survey through an Academic-Community Partnership, created by the Global Health Justice Partnership and Sex Workers and Allies Network, August 2020

A Note on How to Read the GHJP Fact Sheets on Sex Work and the Law in the Current Context of COVID-19, created by the Global Health Justice Partnership and Sex Workers and Allies Network, June 2020

Sex Work vs Trafficking: How They Are Different and Why It Matters, created by the Global Health Justice Partnership and Sex Workers and Allies Network, June 2020

The Harmful Consequences of Sex Work Criminalization on Health and Rights, created by the Global Health Justice Partnership and Sex Workers and Allies Network, June 2020

The Law & Sex Work: Four Legal Approaches to the Sex Sector, created by the Global Health Justice Partnership and Sex Workers and Allies Network, April 2020

GHJP Testimony in support of New Haven’s proposed Homeless Bill of Rights and the Resolution to Decriminalize Homelessness, delivered by Taiga Christie and written by Devin Race, Ali Miler, and Poonam Daryani for the Human Services Committee public hearing on 5 February 2019.

GHJP and SWAN watch site for the New Haven LEAD program

2018 American Public Health Association statement on law enforcement violence as a public health issue

Resource sheet with readings on ecosocial theory, prepared by Dr. Nancy Krieger for 3 Dec. 2018 talk at Yale University on Embodying social injustice: Why past & present structural racism matter for health & justice today.