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Texas Reconsiders Prostitution as a Felony

By Deanne Katz, Esq. on August 29, 2012 7:02 AM

Prostitution is a felony in Texas if you're caught more than three times but that law may change in an effort to save money.

The Texas law is an example of a three-strikes statute where multiple offenders are given a more severe punishment. It was originally adopted in 2001 as a way to clear up Dallas's problem with prostitutes at street corners and truck stops.

Felony charges didn't solve the problem. Instead they created a new one.

Now Texas has more than 350 prostitutes currently behind bars with felony charges, reports The Dallas Morning News.

Felonies are more serious than misdemeanor charges and the possible punishment reflects that. Felonies generally have a potential punishment of more than a year in prison while misdemeanor sentences are less than one year.

That is costing Texas a lot of money especially since the people behind bars aren't there for safety concerns.

Three-strikes laws exist in many states and they allow for harsher punishments for repeat offenders. The goal is to keep violent criminals off the street if they violate minor laws many times.

Those laws can be effective in some situations but for prostitution it ends up as an added expense.

Texas is one of the only states that locks up prostitutes, reports The Austin American-Statesman. The problem is that incarceration is expensive and prostitutes aren't violent offenders.

While most states don't approve of prostitution, offenders aren't necessarily considered a threat to public safety.

It costs the state significantly more to lock up prostitutes than it does to get them into a community program. Rehab programs are also intended to end the cycle of prostitution, something the prison system doesn't necessarily help with.

Officials are expected to reconsider the law in January as part of a state-wide effort to lower costs. It could free up prison space and save the state thousands of dollars if the law is repealed.

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