Audia Jones, a former prosecutor who is campaigning to be the next district attorney in Houston, said that she would not prosecute sex work if elected.
In response to current Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg’s request for $7.4 million to hire more prosecutors, Jones said on Twitter that she would lower caseloads by declining to prosecute drug possession and offenses that target poverty. She later clarified that would include sex work.
“Why are we criminalizing people for making choices with their own bodies?” she said in an interview with The Appeal. Prosecuting sex work also pushes victims of human trafficking, rape or domestic violence into the shadows because they become fearful of speaking to law enforcement, Jones said.
But Jaime Mercado, Ogg’s campaign director, told The Appeal that Ogg would not support a blanket refusal to prosecute sex workers. Instead, he said her office would continue to look for ways to divert sex workers into outside nonprofit organizations where they can get help.
“We’re fully aware that prosecution of sex workers does nothing,” he said. “It just keeps them in a cycle.”
Jones questioned why Ogg, who calls herself a reformer, won’t oppose the prosecution of sex work altogether.
“It’s typical of our current district attorney to play the gray area,” Jones said. “When we do things like diversion or any type of probation, we are still criminalizing those individuals.”