national center for public policy research

With an estimated 170 Americans dying every single day from drug overdoses, the Trump Administration is finally preparing to declare the opioid crisis a national emergency. Unfortunately, we have seen very little policy action follow.  

We need to do better.

This Issue Time will focus on the complexities of addressing this problem, which populations and communities feel the most impact, the role of healthcare and drug treatment centers, and what we can do to support solutions to stop it.     

Ask our panel of experts a question now

Austin Eubanks is an expert in the addiction treatment industry and a nationally recognized speaker and media contributor on topics surrounding behavioral health and addiction recovery. He is the Chief Operations Officer for Foundry Treatment Center, on the board of directors for Stout Street Foundation, a member of the founding board of directors for 5280 High School, and a featured member of Speakers for Change.

An injured survivor of the Columbine shooting, Austin’s traumatic experience as a teen was the catalyst to his painful journey through addiction. Now in long-term recovery, he has devoted his career to helping those who have turned to substances as a result of trauma. Austin has spoken to hundreds of thousands across the nation regarding his personal journey, as well as strategies for addressing the issues of substance abuse plaguing the nation.

Christopher M. Jones serves as Acting Associate Deputy Assistant Secretary for Science and Data Policy in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) at the US Department of Health and Human Services. The Office of Science and Data Policy is the HHS focal point for policy research, analysis, evaluation, and coordination of public health, science, and data policy activities, and provides authoritative advice and analytical support to HHS leadership on public health, science, and data policy issues and initiatives. Prior to joining ASPE, Dr. Jones served as senior advisor in the Office of the Commissioner at the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Dr. Jones previously led the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) drug abuse and overdose activities where he focused on strategic policy development and implementation, engaging national and state partners, and conducting research to improve policy and clinical practice. Dr. Jones has authored more than 50 peer-reviewed publications on the topic of drug abuse and overdose.

Pastor Greg Delaney is the current Outreach Coordinator for Woodhaven Ohio, a safe place to recover from substance abuse disorders. He is a frequent faith partner for the Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s Statewide Outreach on Substance Use as well as West Virginia’s Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s Combating Addiction with Grace initiative

Our panelists will begin to answer your question this Friday, December 1.

National Youth Administration (NYA) Photographs. National Archives Identifier 7350937

Pursuing Civic Literacy

Today’s post comes from the AOTUS blog, written by Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero

As the nation’s record keeper, the National Archives is responsible for making the records of the U.S. Government available to the public. These records—some famous but others quite ordinary—tell the nation’s story, document the actions of government officials over the years, and confirm the rights guaranteed to individuals. They are records that deserve preservation not simply for reference purposes but for use by all interested Americans to participate in the civic process. In short, they form a vital documentary bedrock of our democracy.

An informed citizenry is at the heart of what we do—rooted in the belief that citizens have the right to see, examine, and learn from the records that ensure their rights, hold their government accountable, and tell the story of the nation. However, without a fundamental level of civic literacy, the records that we preserve and make accessible will not be understood or used effectively by the citizens we serve.

I recently read some disheartening statistics about the state of civic literacy in the United States, strengthening my resolve to improve understanding of how the government works and citizen responsibility. According to the data from the Annenberg Public Policy Center, and Pew Research Center:

  • Nearly 2/3 of Americans cannot name all three branches of government. (Yet three in four people can name all Three Stooges.)
  • Only 29% of eligible Americans participated in the 2016 primary elections.
  • Less than half of the public can name a single Supreme Court Justice. And only 15% can correctly name John Roberts as Chief Justice. (Yet 2/3 of Americans know at least one of the American Idol judges.)
  • Nearly a quarter of young Americans think that a democratic form of government is very bad
  • Intentionally fabricated news stories involving the 2016 presidential candidates were shared 38 million times on social media.
  • Americans distrust the government at record levels and they also distrust their fellow citizens to participate in governance.
  • College bound young people (about half the youth population) are much more civically involved than their non-college bound peers. Rates of voting and volunteering are at least twice as high for those who attend college.
  • Students who are white get more high quality civic-learning opportunities
  • Nationwide, more than 1/3 of today’s high school seniors lack even basic civics knowledge and skills.
  • More than ¼ of Americans do not know who America fought in the Revolutionary War
  • 39% incorrectly stated that the Constitution gives the president the power to declare war.

Keep reading

Writing Research: American Revolution

The American Revolution was a political upheaval that took place between 1765 and 1783 during which colonists in the Thirteen American Colonies rejected the British monarchy and aristocracy, overthrew the authority of Great Britain, and founded the United States of America.

Starting in 1765, members of American colonial society rejected the authority of the British Parliament to tax them without any representatives in the government, and resisted renewed British attempts to collect duties on goods such as sugar and molasses that for many years had gone uncollected through widespread smuggling by colonists. During the following decade, protests by colonists—known as Patriots—continued to escalate, as in the Boston Tea Party in 1773 during which patriots destroyed a consignment of taxed tea from the East India Company. The British responded by imposing punitive laws—the Coercive Acts—on Massachusetts in 1774 until the tea had been paid for, following which Patriots in the other colonies rallied behind Massachusetts. In late 1774 the Patriots set up their own alternative government to better coordinate their resistance efforts against Britain, while other colonists, known as Loyalists, preferred to remain subjects of the British Crown.

Tensions escalated to the outbreak of fighting between Patriot militia and British regulars at Lexington and Concord in April 1775, after which the Patriot Suffolk Resolves effectively replaced the Royal government of Massachusetts, and confined the British to control of the city of Boston. The conflict then evolved into a global war, during which the Patriots (and later their French, Spanish and Dutch allies) fought the British and Loyalists in what became known as the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783). Patriots in each of the thirteen colonies formed a Provincial Congress that assumed power from the old colonial governments and suppressed Loyalism. Claiming King George III’s rule to be tyrannical and infringing the colonists’ “rights as Englishmen”, the Continental Congress declared the colonies free and independent states in July 1776. The Patriot leadership professed the political philosophies of liberalism and republicanism to reject monarchy and aristocracy, and proclaimed that all men are created equal. Congress rejected British proposals requiring allegiance to the monarchy and abandonment of independence. [1]

Names

  • ModernMom - Popular Baby Names in the 1700s
  • British Baby Names - Curiosities of the Seventeenth Century
  • Medieval Naming Guides - Early 17th Century English Names
  • Internet Archive - Early census making in Massachusetts, 1643-1765, with a reproduction of the lost census of 1765 (recently found) and documents relating thereto;
  • Olive Tree Genealogy - Irish Passenger Lists: 1765, no ship name, arriving from Ireland in Boston, Massachusetts
  • Trail Of Our Ancestors - Names of German Pioneers to Pennsylvania: 
    Passenger Ships’ Lists, 1750
  • USGenWeb Archives -  Names of Pioneers from the Palatinate Germany to Pennsylvania, 1754
  • RootsWeb’s Guide - Given Names in Early America
  • GIGA - Name Chronological List, 1760 - 1779

Society & Life

  • History.com - The American Revolution Begins: April 19, 1775
  • History.com - American Revolution
  • History Channel - American Revolution History (Video)
  • PBS - Liberty! The American Revolution
  • PBS - Africans in American: The Revolutionary War, Part 2
  • The History Place - American Revolution
  • The History Place - Prelude to Revolution, 1763 to 1775
  • The History Place - The American War for Independence: 1775 to 1776 Conflict and Revolution
  • University of Houston - Overview of the American Revolution
  • Library of Congress - The American Revolution
  • Encyclopaedia Britannica - American Revolution
  • U.S. National Park Service - The American Revolution
  • Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History - The American Revolution, 1763-1783
  • America’s Library - Revolutionary Period, 1764-1789
  • Coastal Heritage Society - American Revolution
  • About.com - American Revolution
  • United States Department of State - 1776-1783: American Revolution Timeline
  • United States Military Academy - American Revolution
  • British Library - The American Revolution from 1763 - 1787
  • National Endowment for the Humanities - Voices of the American Revolution
  • University of Groningen - Was the American Revolution a Revolution?
  • Independence Hall Association - Revolutionary War Timeline
  • North Carolina Encyclopedia - Reasons behind the Revolutionary War
  • Social Studies For Kids - Causes of the Revolutionary War
  • Mount Vernon -  Ten Facts about Washington and the Revolutionary War
  • Cracked - 5 Myths About the Revolutionary War Everyone Believes
  • Journal of the American Revolution - 7 Myths about the Boston Tea Party
  • University of Notre Dame - Revisiting America’s Revolutionary Myths and Realities
  • History Net - Debunking Boston Tea Party Myths
  • Smithsonian - Myths of the American Revolution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill - The Colored Patriots of the American Revolution
  • The Washington Post - The American Revolution Was Not A Whites-only War
  • University of Houston - Slavery, the American Revolution, and the Constitution
  • Colonial Williamsburg -  African Americans During The American Revolution: Teacher Reference Sheet (PDF)
  • Rutgers University - African Americans in the Revolution
  • Ducksters - American Revolution: African Americans
  • North Carolina Encyclopedia - African Americans and the Revolution
  • University of California, Irvine - African American Soldiers and the American Revolution
  • Colorado College - Blacks and the American Revolution
  • History Net - Black History
  • Wikipedia - African Americans in the Revolutionary War
  • National Endowment for the Humanities - The Native Americans’ Role in the American Revolution: Choosing Sides
  • Independence Hall Association -  Revolutionary Limits: Native Americans
  • History Wiz -  Native Americans and the American Revolution
  • ABC-CLIO - American Revolution, Native American Participation
  • University of Houston - Native Americans and the American Revolution
  • Prezi - Contributions of African Americans, Native Americans and Women during the American Revolution (Video)
  • PBS - Liberty! The American Revolution: Daily Life in the Colonies
  • Ducksters - Daily Life During the Revolution War
  • Independence Hall Association - The Revolution on the Home Front
  • Library of Congress - Revolutionary War: The Home Front
  • American History - Colonial Daily Life During the American Revolution
  • New York University Libraries - The American Revolution: An Everyday Life Perspective
  • ABC‑CLIO - Daily Life During the American Revolution
  • ABBE Regional Library System - The Lives of Children During The Revolutionary War (PDF)
  • Wikipedia - Children of the American Revolution
  • U.S. National Park Service - Children’s Rights and the American Revolution
  • Teachinghistory.org - Colonial Teenagers
  • The Santa Fe New Mexican Newspaper -  Fighting Spirit: Teenagers in the American Revolution
  • Google Books - The Brave Women and Children of the American Revolution
  • U.S. National Park Service -  Patriot Families’ Role in Effecting American Independence and the American Revolution’s Effect on their Family Life (PDF)
  • U.S. National Park Service -  Life during the Colonial Period and the American Revolution
  • Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History - Assessing Change: Women’s Lives in the American Revolutionary Era
  • Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History - Lucy Knox on the home front during the Revolutionary War, 1777
  • American Revolution - Women in the Revolution
  • Wikipedia - Women in the American Revolution
  • Journal of the American Revolution - 10 Amazing Women of the Revolutionary War
  • History of Massachusetts - The Roles of Women in the American Revolutionary War
  • Women History Blog - Women’s Role in the American Revolution
  • Social Studies - Roles of Women in the American Revolution and the Civil War
  • Independence Hall Association - Revolutionary Changes and Limitations: Women
  • Annenberg Media - Women of the American Revolution (PDF)
  • About.com - Women and the American Revolution
  • The Examiner - The Role of Women in the American Revolution
  • Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media - Women and the Revolution
  • Prezi - Women’s Roles During the American Revolution Outlined by Hannah Schierl (Video)
  • United States Army - Women in the Army
  • Atlanta Blackstar - 5 Extraordinary Black Women Who Played Major Roles In The American Revolution
  • Women History Blog - Women’s Rights After the American Revolution
  • Journal of the American Revolution - Top 10 Marriages Gone Bad
  • National Women’s History Museum - American Revolution
  • American In Class - Civilians in the American Revolution
  • National Humanities Center - Religion and the American Revolution
  • New York University Libraries -  The American Revolution: Religion
  • Library of Congress - Religion and the American Revolution
  • U.S. National Park Service - Religion and the American Revolution
  • Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History - Religion and the American Revolution
  • Social Studies For Kids - Religion and the Church in the 13 American Colonies
  • Social Studies For Kids - Education in the 13 American Colonies
  • New York University Libraries - The American Revolution: Education
  • Oregon State University - Education in the Revolutionary Era
  • Prezi - Education During the Revolution Period (Video)
  • Wikipedia - Education in the Thirteen Colonies
  • Chesapeake College - Early National Education
  • Mackinac Center for Public Policy - Early Colonial Period to the American Revolution
  • Noah Webster House - Life in 1770s Connecticut
  • Rutgers University - The American Revolution in New Jersey 
  • Wikipedia - New Jersey in the American Revolution
  • Wikipedia - South Carolina in the American Revolution
  • Wikipedia - Pennsylvania in the American Revolution
  • Wikipedia - Virginia in the American Revolution
  • Wikipedia - Maryland in the American Revolution
  • Wikipedia - Georgia in the American Revolution
  • Wikipedia - Massachusetts in the American Revolution
  • United States History - Massachusetts and the American Revolution
  • Wikipedia - Connecticut in the American Revolution
  • Connecticut History - Revolutionary War, 1775-1783
  • United States History - Delaware and the American Revolution
  • Wikipedia - New Hampshire in the American Revolution
  • United States History - New Hampshire and the American Revolution
  • Wikipedia - North Carolina in the American Revolution
  • United States History - North Carolina and the American Revolution
  • Wikipedia - Rhode Island in the American Revolution
  • United States History - Rhode Island and the American Revolution
  • Internet Archive - New York City during the American Revolution
  • Early America - New York City During the First Year of the Revolution
  • AM New York Newspaper - NYC Has A Lot More Revolutionary War History Than You Might Think
  • Wikipedia - Germans in the American Revolution
  • McGill University - Why Canada Did Not Join the American Revolution
  • Canadian War Museum - The American Revolution, 1775-1783
  • History Net - Invasion of Canada During the American Revolutionary War
  • Biography - Famous People in the American Revolution
  • Wikipedia - George Washington in the American Revolution
  • Ducksters - American Revolution: Life as a Revolutionary War Soldier
  • Independence Hall Association - The War Experience: Soldiers, Officers, and Civilians
  • The Countryman Press - Soldier of the American Revolution
  • PBS - Liberty! American Revolution: Military Perspectives
  • Prezi - Daily Life of an American Soldier During The Revolutionary War (Video)
  • Independence Hall Association - American Revolution: Selections from the Diary of Private Joseph Plumb Martin
  • JSTOR Database - Journal of a British Officer During the American Revolution 
  • U.S. National Park Service - Privateers in the American Revolution
  • Reddit: Ask Historians - What did the people of Great Britain think of men like George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson during the American Revolution?
  • Reddit: Ask Historians - What was popular British opinion of the American Revolution?
  • Reddit: Ask - British Redditors, how were you taught the American Revolution?
  • Study - British Loyalists vs. American Patriots During the American Revolution (Video)
  • Ducksters - American Revolution: Patriots and Loyalists
  • Independence Hall Association - Loyalists, Fence-sitters, and Patriots
  • Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History -  A patriot’s letter to his loyalist father, 1778
  • Wikipedia - American Revolution: Patriot
  • Wikipedia - Patriots in the American Revolution
  • Independence Hall Association - The Boston Patriots
  • Wikipedia - American Revolution: Loyalist
  • United States History - The Loyalists
  • Wikipedia - Loyalists in the American Revolution
  • University of Groningen - Loyalists During the American Revolution
  • Women History Blog - Loyalist Women of the American Revolution
  • PBS - After the Revolution: A Midwife’s Tale
  • Journal of the American Revolution - Top 10 Facts About British Soldiers
  • History.com - Tea Act: American Revolution
  • National Endowment for the Humanities - After the American Revolution: Free African Americans in the North
  • West Virginia Division Culture and History - Revolutionary War and Its Aftermath
  • North Carolina Encyclopedia - American Revolution- Part 6: A Troubled Aftermath
  • Brown University - The American Revolution and its Aftermath
  • About.com - The Effects of the American Revolutionary War on Britain
  • Prezi - The American Revolution and its Aftermath (Video)
  • NPR (National Public Radio) - What Happened To British Loyalists After The Revolutionary War?
  • The Atlantic - What If America Had Lost the Revolutionary War?
  • Teachinghistory.org - What If…? Reexamining the American Revolution
  • The Huffington Post - What If We’d Lost the American Revolution?
  • How Stuff Works - What if America had lost the Revolution?

Commerce

  • JSTOR Database - Prices and Inflation During the American Revolution, Pennsylvania, 1770-1790
  • The Food Timeline -  Colonial America & Fare
  • Wikipedia - Financial Costs of the American Revolutionary War
  • British Library - The American Revolution: The Costs of Empire - The Seven Years’ War and the Stamp Act Crisis
  • Smithsonian Center for Education and Museum Studies - Revolutionary Money
  • Independence Hall Association - Following the Money
  • Ludwig von Mises Institute - Inflation and the American Revolution

Entertainment & Food

  • Massachusetts Historical Society - Newspapers from 1765 
  • Mount Vernon - Reporting the Revolutionary War
  • Journal of the American Revolution - Top 10 Revolutionary War Newspapers
  • Assumption College - Newspapers in Revolutionary Era America & The Problems of Patriot and Loyalist Printers
  • Wikipedia - American Literature: Revolutionary Period
  • The Examiner - Literature of the American Revolution
  • New York University Libraries - The American Revolution: Music
  • University of Houston - Music and the American Revolution
  • PBS - Liberty! American Revolution - Revolutionary War Music
  • Independence Hall Association - Songs of the Revolution
  • Wikipedia - Songs of the American Revolutionary War
  • Smithsonian Folkways - American Revolutionary War Songs to Cultivate the Sensations of Freedom
  • Smithsonian - The Food the Fueled the American Revolution
  • National Museum of American History - What did soldiers eat during the Revolutionary War?
  • Wikipedia - Cuisine of the Thirteen Colonies
  • American Revolution for Kids - Revolutionary Recipes
  • Colonial Williamsburg - Colonial Foodways
  • Independence Hall Association - Firecake Recipe
  • Colonial Williamsburg - Drinking in Colonial America
  • Serious Eats - 5 Colonial-Era Drinks You Should Know
  • Colonial Williamsburg - Dessert: A Look into the World of the 18th-century Confectioner!
  • Social Studies For Kids - Food in the 13 American Colonies
  • Wikipedia - 1760 in Poetry
  • Wikipedia - 1765 in Poetry
  • Prezi - Leisure Activities and Sports During the American Revolution (Video)
  • Journal of Sport History - Sports and Games of the American Revolution (PDF)
  • National Museum of American History - What did Revolutionary War soldiers have in their pockets?
  • Journal of the American Revolution - The Role of Dancing
  • Encyclopedia Virginia - Dance During the Colonial Period

Hygiene, Health & Medicine

  • New York University Libraries - Health and Medicine in Revolutionary America
  • United States Department of the Air Force - Military Medicine During the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries
  • Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society - Medicine in the Revolutionary War
  • Prezi - Health and Dental Care During the American Revolution (Video)
  • The Dallas Morning News -  Medical Care in the American Revolution
  • PBS - Liberty! American Revolution - Medicine
  • Office of Medical History - Medical Men in the American Revolution
  • National Center for Biotechnology Information - Medical Men in the American Revolution 1775-1783
  • JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association - Naval and Maritime Medicine During the American Revolution
  • MedPage Today - George Washington, Smallpox, and the American Revolution
  • National Center for Biotechnology Information -  Drug Therapy in Colonial and Revolutionary America
  • Minnesota Wellness Publications -  The Revolutionary War: The History of Medicine
  • American Revolution - George Washington: A Dental Victim
  • Mount Vernon - The Trouble with Teeth
  • Project Gutenberg - Drug Supplies in the American Revolution
  • Colonial Williamsburg - To Bathe or Not to Bathe: Coming Clean in Colonial America
  • Revolutionary War Museum - Medicine and Hygiene
  • Independence Hall Association - Surgeons and Butchers
  • eHow - About Hygiene in Colonial Times
  • Legacy - Life and Death in The Liberty Era 1750-1800
  • National Center for Biotechnology Information - Revolutionary Fever: Disease and War in the Lower South, 1776–1783
  • Wikipedia - Disease in Colonial America
  • Army Heritage Center - A Deadly Scourge: Smallpox During the Revolutionary War
  • PBS - The 9 Deadly Diseases That Plagued George Washington
  • Mental Floss - Biological Warfare in the American Revolution?
  • Prezi -  Health Care And Hospitals During The American Revolution (Video)
  • Wikipedia - Physicians in the American Revolution
  • Journal of the American Revolution - Surgery
  • Campbell University - The Colonial Family In America
  • Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation - Colonial Medicine (PDF)
  • WebMD - Warm Up to Ginger
  • Colonial Williamsburg - Apothecary
  • Colonial Williamsburg - Th Art and Mystery of Apothecary
  • ehow - What Tools Did Apothecary Use in Colonial Times?
  • Williamsburg Tours - 18th Century Medical Practices in Colonial Williamsburg, VA.
  • ehow - How Did Colonial Doctors Work?
  • Colonial Williamsburg - Eighteenth-Century Medical Myths

Fashion

  • North Carolina Encyclopedia - Outfitting an American Revolutionary Soldier 
  • Colonial Williamsburg - Introduction to Eighteenth-Century Clothing
  • American Revolution - Clothing 1770 - 1800
  • History of American Wars - Revolutionary War Uniforms
  • Ducksters - American Revolution: Soldiers Uniforms and Gear
  • American Revolution - The Revolution And The New Republic, 1775-1800: Colonial Clothing
  • Massachusetts Department of Higher Education - Men’s Clothing from the 1770s
  • Massachusetts Department of Higher Education - Women’s Clothing from the 1770s
  • Massachusetts Department of Higher Education - Girl’s Clothing from the 1770s
  • ehow - Makeup & Hairsyles of the 1700s
  • Colonial Williamsburg - Stuff and Nonsense: Myths That Should by Now Be History
  • Wikipedia - 1775-95 in Western Fashion

Dialogue

  • Ducksters - American Revolution: Glossary and Terms
  • Colonial Quills - The Art of the Olde-Fashioned Insults
  • History of Redding - Exploring Period Vocabulary & Slang
  • Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation - Military Slang of the Revolutionary War Era
  • Colonial Williamsburg - Puttin’ on the Dog: Adventures in the Idioms of Our Mother Tongue
  • Shmoop - The American Revolution Terms
  • HyperVocal - 38 Vulgar Terms From the 19th-Century Urban Dictionary

Justice & Crime

  • Wikipedia - Prisoners of War in the American Revolutionary War
  • Mount Vernon - Prisoners of War
  • Wikipedia - Militia Generals in the American Revolution
  • Colonial Williamsburg - Colonial Crimes and Punishments
  • History.com - Redcoats kill sleeping Americans in Paoli Massacre: September 20, 1777
  • H‑Net: Humanities and Social Sciences Online - The Fate of Britain’s Convicts after the American Revolution
  • Early American Crime -  An Exploration of Crime, Criminals, And Punishments From America’s Past
  • Colonial Williamsburg - Cruel and Unusual: Prisons and Prison Reform
  • Slate - Did the Brits Burn Churches?
  • Encyclopedia Virginia - Convict Labor During the Colonial Period
  • Wikipedia - Laws Leading to the American Revolution
  • Sam Houston State University - Military Punishments in the Continental Army
  • History.com - Pennsylvania militiamen senselessly murder Patriot allies: March 8, 1782
  • Mount Vernon - American Spies of the Revolution
  • Wikipedia - Boston Massacre
  • National Archives and Records Administration -  The Declaration of Independence: A Transcription
  • Wikipedia - United States Declaration of Independence
  • Independence Hall Association - Declaration of Independence
  • University of Groningen -  The Final Text of the Declaration of Independence July 4 1776
  • Library of Congress - Declaration of Independence
  • History.com -  Declaration of Independence: American Revolution
  • Independence Hall Association - When Does the Revolution End?
  • Study - Effects of the American Revolution: Lesson & Quiz
  • Net Industries - The Early Years of American Law - Colonial Freedom, Britain’s Push For Greater Control, A New Start, A New Criminal Court System
  • Journal of the American Revolution - 10 Facts About Prisoners of War
2

ByLambda Legal
OCTOBER 12, 2016

Co-authored by Hayley Gorenberg, Deputy Legal Director, and Richard Saenz, Staff Attorney and the Criminal Justice and Police Misconduct program strategist.

As courts confront challenges to prostitution laws that pile fines and criminal records on people who get paid for consensual sex, we’re making our position clear: we see no constitutionally adequate basis to criminalize sex solely because one consenting adult pays another.

In one such case, Erotic Service Provider Legal, Education & Research Project v. Gascón, pending in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, Lambda Legal recently filed a friend-of-the court brief challenging a decision that failed to examine the facts of whether a California prostitution law actually promotes public health. Representing our own organization, as well as AIDS United, APLA Health, The Center for HIV Law and Policy, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, The HIV Prevention Justice Alliance, National Alliance of State & Territorial AIDS Directors, National Center for Lesbian Rights, Positively Trans, Positive Women’s Network-USA, San Francisco AIDS Foundation, Brad Sears (Executive Director of The Williams Institute), Sero Project, and the Sex Workers Project at the Urban Justice Center, we laid out the real-world evidence that criminalizing sex work actually undermines public health.

When the government criminalizes sex work, people involved in the sex trade fear law enforcement, arrests and penalties. Criminalization deters people frequently targeted by police (often poor, often people of color, often transgender women) from carrying and using condoms, a cheap and effective method of preventing HIV and other sexually transmitted infections–because those condoms may be used as evidence of intent to commit a crime. And that result, as a prominent prosecutor admitted years ago, is “a public health disaster.” Yet more than three decades into the HIV epidemic, this is the public health impact our criminal laws have wrought—often affecting people for whom sex work makes the difference between having food and shelter or going hungry and homeless.

Sex workers are more likely to be targeted for violence, and less likely to get help if they are attacked, because telling the facts of what occurred will likely reveal their engagement in criminalized conduct. They are also less likely to go to doctors and clinics or to be forthcoming about their activities when the work they do can lead to being charged with a crime. For all of these reasons, criminalizing sex worsens public health–for both sellers and buyers–rather than protecting or improving it.

These impacts can make workers vulnerable to the force and coercion that are the hallmarks of trafficking. In turn, people who are trafficked have reduced control over their work and their choices, leading to worsened health, including added vulnerability to HIV and disease progression.

To be clear, human trafficking is not sex work, and confusing the two leads to legal and public health chaos when we try to find our way to sound results. Clearing out the clamor: the key is consent. People who are coerced or forced into sex or domestic labor (the most common form of human trafficking) are not sex workers—they are trafficking victims. Nothing about our position blocks prosecuting their tormentors.

At the heart of Lambda Legal’s most groundbreaking victories and continuing mission is self-determination, including bodily autonomy. When the Supreme Court struck down laws criminalizing same-sex relationships and gay identity in Lawrence v. Texas, it rightly rejected assertions against us that “public health” justified sodomy laws. The movement for reproductive justice, from which we draw key legal precedents, similarly fights for facts over fiction when government tries to limit the right to contraception, abortion, or other similar personal decision-making. Lawrence explained that the constitutional right to liberty protects all of us when we make our own decisions about adult, consensual sexual intimacy. In cases such as Lawrence and a long and venerable line of reproductive justice cases the Court has recognized values of dignity, privacy, and autonomy extending to each of us in our sexual choices, independent of whether encounters involve love or marriage and unimpeded by moral disapproval. Across connected movements, we are all in this together, in so many ways.

And so we have rejected facile assumptions about public health and sex work. We did so in supporting Amnesty International’s deeply researched platform rejecting criminalization of sex work, and soon after in critiquing the Rentboy.com prosecution. Throughout, we have driven home the truth about the devastating harms of arrests, fines, sentences, criminal records, injuries and violence that criminalizing sex work generates against LGBT people and many others. We will continue to do so in our legal and policy advocacy and in coalition with other organizations in support of our mutual goals: health, safety, and choice and self-determination about our relationships, our work and our bodies.

Money complicates sex. But a commercial exchange shouldn’t negate these constitutional rights. And frankly, sometimes relationships are transactional. For just a few common examples, consider prenuptial agreements, surrogacy, and hook-up websites; the fact that money is involved does not obliterate constitutional protections for marriage, parenting or sexual intimacy. All of these truths animate Lambda Legal’s position that the government may not constitutionally criminalize consensual adult sex solely because it is bought and sold.