Opinion | How to Protect Sex Workers

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To the Editor:

In “Real Protection for Massage Workers” (Op-Ed, March 29), Elena Shih promotes the decriminalization of prostitution. While there is broad agreement to support decriminalization of those bought and sold in the sex trade, there is a divide over the decriminalization of the johns who buy sex and the pimps who profiteer from selling it. These agents of the industry don’t need protection; it is all of us who need protection from them.

A less drastic and more effective way to protect all women who suffer these abuses is to decriminalize them, but not their perpetrators. Widespread police abuse would also be addressed by this approach, pioneered by Sweden and known as the equality model. It would provide protection and support for those who have been coerced — by drugs and poverty, if not brute force — into prostitution.

Those who participate in this exploitation — often the very perpetrators Ms. Shih writes about — have no right to legal protection, and they should be held accountable.

Jessica Neuwirth
New York
The writer is director of the Human Rights Program at the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute of Hunter College.

For a Total Ban on the Death Penalty

To the Editor:

Re “Stop the Executions, Mr. Biden” (editorial, March 27):

Your call to President Biden to effectively end the federal death penalty is welcome, but it doesn’t go far enough.

He and Vice President Kamala Harris should lead an effort to truly eliminate the death penalty from our society. They should push for a constitutional amendment banning capital punishment in all jurisdictions in the United States. As you point out, the death penalty in the last 50 years has been resilient, rising from the ashes of the Supreme Court’s 1972 ban when states rewrote their laws to address the court’s objections.

A piecemeal approach to abolition risks leaving the punishment on the books in some states. Only total abolition will assure the death penalty’s death and will restore our reputation as a moral force to the rest of the world.

Doug Magee
New York
The writer is the author of “Slow Coming Dark: Interviews on Death Row” and wrote the screenplay for the death-row film “Somebody Has to Shoot the Picture.”

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